Obama: the pro-migrant choice

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Under the assumptions that (a) a Democrat will win the White House this year and (b) that whoever is crowned the "winner" by the media after Super Tuesday will be the Democratic nominee (this second assumption may be on shakier ground than the first), tomorrow's primary election in selected states might be more important than the November general election. 

So from a pro-migrant, progressive perspective, which of the two leading Democratic candidates is preferable on the issue of immigration?  This blogger concludes that Obama--though far from perfect--is the better candidate for migrants.

Update: [Well, my assumption that Super Tuesday would be the end of the Democratic primary race was quite ill-informed.  I hope the rest of my observations hold up a little better.]  

I won't pretend to be unbiased or objective--I've been an Obama supporter from the beginning.  Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton . . . can you spot the problem with this pattern?  Also, the War in Iraq has been one of my top issues since 2002 when I realized we were actually going to invade, and in the simplest distillation of the matter, Obama chose right and Clinton chose wrong. 

But setting aside other issues for now, which candidate would I pick, as an advocate for migrants?  Both Clinton and Obama are likely to push for more sensible, humane immigration policies than we have now.  Both supported comprehensive reform.  By the same token, both voted for the border wall.  And, as I noted last fall, Obama's stated positions on immigration left much to be desired.  

But at least he was participating in the conversation; he reached out and grabbed that mythical deadly third rail that nobody else wanted to touch.  

Recently, partly in an attempt to cut into Clinton's lead among Latinos, Obama has played up the contrasts between his positions on immigration and those of his opponent.  La Opinion, in its endorsement of Obama, listed some of these distinctions: 

[W]e were disappointed with [Clinton's] calculated opposition to driver's licenses for the undocumented, which contrasts markedly from the forceful argument in support made by Obama. We understand that this is an extremely controversial issue but we believe there is only one right position and it is that of the senator from Illinois. And, while both senators support comprehensive immigration reform, only Obama has committed to bringing forward new legislation during his first year in office.

It is this commitment to the immigration issue which drove Obama to condemn the malicious lies made during the immigration debate, to understand the need for driver's licenses, and to defend the rights of undocumented students by co-authoring the DREAM Act. The senator has demonstrated character by maintaining his position despite the hostile political climate.

Word on the street is that Clinton doesn't plan to address immigration until her second term.  If true, that is far too long to wait.  

I was tempted to outsource this post entirely to . . . Mickey Kaus!  Yes, he is not a friend of the migrant community.  But take a look at what he says (via Yglesias):

Suppose you were a single issue voter, and your single issue was immigration. Specifically, you were opposed to legislation that combines some form of amnesty (legalization of existing illegal immigrants) with tougher border enforcement. If so, you would probably be pretty depressed right now--three of the four leading presidential candidates explicitly favor such "comprehensive" reform. The fourth, Mitt Romney is the least likely to win. And even he's suspected of being a closet comprehensivist.

But you still have to vote. Before you did, you'd want to ask: Which of the three pro-legalization candidates is least likely to accomplish their legislative goal? When you think about it this way, a clear and somewhat surprising ranking of top three emerges.

1) Hillary Clinton would probably be the best president for anti-comprehensivists. She's cautious. She's been burned by GOP opposition before (to her 1994 health plan). Is she really going attempt both health care reform and immigration reform in her first two years? Remember, Rahm Emmanuel's swing-state Democratic congressmen typically ran tough-on-illegals campaigns. They're squeamish about voting for "amnesty." If Hillary is president (meaning John McCain isn't president) the Republicans are likely to unite against a Democratic legalization plan. Meanwhile, Hillary's political adviser James Carville is on record suggesting that legalization, like welfare, is a potential election-loser. Hillary suppporter Paul Krugman seems one of those remaining economists who actually believe in supply and demand--i.e., that an increase in the supply of immigrant labor can drive down unskilled wages. And Hillary herself has made anti-illegals noises in the past, including reversing her endorsement of Gov. Spitzer's drivers license plan.

2) Barack Obama, on the other hand, may actually believe his standard-left immigration positons. He's shown an ability to bridge the partisan divide and get things done. All deeply troubling, in this case.. But at least he too would have a hard time getting both a health care plan and immigration legislation through Congress against opposition from Republicans (McCain having lost).

3) President McCain . . .

[Here Kaus explains why John McCain is going to flip-flop again and embrace his pro-migrant roots, defying what is currently the most passionate segment of the GOP base.  I don't buy it, but I'd argue it's a moot point anyway (see my first assumption above).]

Back to Kaus:

P.S.: OK,, I'm not just just saying. If I thought either Clinton or Obama would do a much better job on health care, that would be one thing. But both seem well-positioned to actually pass some big, broad health plan. An immigration plan, on the other hand, seems much iffier. It could pass or fail depending on who's president. And, unlike a health care plan, an immigration legalization bill is likely to have large, irreversible consequences. Misconceived health plans can be altered or repealed (remember "catastrophic insurance"?). But if a misconceived immigration amnesty attracts millions of new illegal entrants who then have to be given citizenship--on top of the new citizens created by the amnesty itself--it won't just lower unskilled wages etc. It will profoundly alter the very electorate that will have to consider any future change of course.

In this context, single-issue voting could be a highly responsible course.

Vote Hillary. She won't get it done! ...

So that is what Kaus thinks.  Clinton has bought into the flawed "third rail" narrative and doesn't plan to waste precious political capital on a potentially futile quest to reform the immigration system.  But what if Kaus is pitching some reverse psychology voodoo at us, you say?  How do we know he's not just engaged in a double bluff psychout (don't judge me on my pseudo poker jargon--I don't play the game) to try to drive voters away from the candidate who has the political connections and broad support to push a big reform bill through Congress the way Obama never could?  

Well, the guys at ImmigrationProf Blog seem to agree with Kaus.  And they've been studying migration a lot longer than I have.  

Bill Hing takes issue with Clinton's harsh statements on due process rights for immigrants charged with crimes:

[I]t does not look like Hillary Clinton is for the reinstatement of INA Section 212(c)-type relief for longterm LPRs convicted of certain crimes that existed prior to 1996. I'm disappointed in her unwillingness to consider discretionary relief for folks who are deserving of a second chance. Of course her husband started all this by signing the tragic 1996 legislation.

[Then, quoting a NY Sun article by Josh Gerstein:]

A vow to give the boot to criminal aliens has become an almost daily part of the New York senator's presidential campaign spiel on overhauling the immigration system.

"Anybody who committed a crime in this country or in the country they came from has to be deported immediately, with no legal process. They are immediately gone," Mrs. Clinton told a town hall meeting in Anderson, S.C., Thursday. On Wednesday, she told a crowd in North Bergen, N.J., that such criminals "absolutely" need to be deported. A day earlier, she told a rally in Salinas, Calif., that aliens with criminal records "should be deported, no questions asked."

Hing likes the optimism and hope Obama has engendered in a broad range of voters.  

Kevin Johnson highlights Obama's support for driver's licenses for undocumented people, in contrast to Clinton's ignominious walkback on this issue.

KJ also notes that: 

Obama's immigration platform includes, among other things, fixing the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increasing the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.  Such current positions, not past failed proposals, should attract the Latino vote.

Duke at Migra Matters points out that there were only two sitting senators who joined the marchers on May 1, 2006: Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama.  Here is what Obama said a few days after the marches. 

...to those who are fearful of these immigrants, in some cases because they have come to represent a loss of control for the country and its borders, I would just say to them that we can't have a country in which you have a servant class that is picking our lettuce or plucking our chickens or looking after our children or mowing our lawns but who never have the full rights and obligations of citizenship. That's just not the kind of country that I want to have my children grow up in and my hope is that over the coming months we can come up with the kind of comprehensive, thoughtful legislation that I think the Senate bill reflects and we can have strong border security, we can have employers do the right thing by hiring those who are here legally in some fashion, but that we also provide all those families, children, elderly people and teenagers that I saw in that amazing march on Monday the opportunity to be full members of the American community.

Where was Clinton on May 1, 2006? 

And finally, here is an excerpt from Nezua's recent post that struck a chord with me:

I am someone who for most of his life, didn't care about politics, and didn't believe in our government. I still think it's a rigged system, I still want to see our international presence altered drastically, I still see our priorities as being way off, I see law used as a weapon of conquest and control and suppression and ethnic agenda. I think our electoral college is a joke, and I think the vote is often stolen and manipulated. I am always an inch away from turning my back on the whole thing. And even I have to admit that a populace that adopts this attitude is in danger. Obama makes me want to give it a shot, a real shot. The thought of HRC Inc™ up in there again makes me want to return to disengagement. I don't think I'm alone in this.

Nez, you are not.

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kberly7568 said:

I agree that Obama is definitely the better choice for the democrats. He will be able to unite the country much better than Hillary could. Check out this link for a really cool and important music video for the super tuesday races!!


kyledeb said:

Always great to get the campaign spam from above. I guess it's better than other forms of spam. I'm glad you wrote on this yave. I've been thinking of going farther than this, though to say that Clinton is anti-migrant. I'm still formulating my thoughts on this, and might even encourage voting for McCain over Hillary. If migrants were are only concern, which chances are they are not for the average U.S. citizen, than McCain might be the best choice. Still need to think on this, though.

DV said:


From the three of them, (clinton, obama, mccain)I have not heard one single thing that makes me think they will make it any easier to get my wife home.

I used to think that clinton was pro immigration reform (think simpler - easier - cheaper to come here) but I don't trust her any more. Hell her husband singed into law INA 1996 i don;t think i can trust her.

I don't trust Obama's hope cool aid mix BS either, he's all talk and no details..none at all. Let's see it written down, not just stupid talking points on his web site either. Substance is king, hope on this issue in our time in this country is for fools.

Mccain....he's a joke and he just wants power. He would throw his daughter under a bus to get the presidency and she's adopted from bangladesh! He used to have a heart but he sold it to have a shot at the white house. no he is not to be trusted either.

Maybe i'm cynical and angry over all this, but I have a right to be when my own country destroys my family.

yave begnet said:

Good points, DV. The way I see it, for all the rhetoric about leadership, national politicians are so risk-averse that usually they only do what is politically safe at any given moment. I prefer Obama over the others partly because his father was an immigrant and he lived abroad and in Hawaii. For these reasons, I think he is more likely to empathize with immigrants than the other two. I think my post provides some support for the assertion that he has done so. But I don't expect him to strike down the unjust immigration laws--he couldn't, on his own, anyway--or even lead the charge against IRRIRA and the REAL ID Act and the other bad laws.

I do expect him to be more sympathetic to immigrants than Huckabee, Romney, or "No Due Process" Clinton. I think it is up to us to try to change the minds of our family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to create a political climate that favors repeal of these crappy laws. You are right that all the candidates are too cowardly on things like ending the war, not starting new ones, ending legal discrimination against LGBT people, and reforming immigration law. But rarely are politicians the real leaders--MLK, Orwell, and Cesar Chavez weren't politicians, but a lot of people listened to what they said. I'll say for now I'm siding with the candidate I think will be least likely to make a bad situation worse and might make it better.

DV said:


I don't know what to believe anymore. I feel betrayed by my own country. I do understand where your coming from though.

When I talk about this issue and they KNOW what's happend, people do listen..ALOT. But it's not enough. I don't like to use this word, but more NATIVE born American's i.e. white people need to step up and let the country know just what these crappy laws do to them. That way maybe we can seperate the racist jerks who want even more restrictionist laws (lou dobbs) from the average person who still thinks you can just marry a U.S. citizen and "pow" your in.

Clinton & Obama will be worlds better than what we got now I agrree with that. By the way, where and when did Clinton say that? I had heard about it but just thought it was all hillery hatred.

I know that Mccain is not that bad at all on this issue, at least deep down inside he's not. He just wants to be president so he threw his scruples away and ran to his base which hates my wife and hates me for marrying her. Sad really

I now know more about Immigration and the federal laws that drive it than I ever cared to learn. In some ways, I think I even know more than some lawyers about it..well...maybe not but they sure have not helped me at all.

Anyway, I will give obama another look. Maybe the kos kiddies can help me understand his views on this more.

yave begnet said:


Noting that there are a lot of nonwhite native-born citizens, I agree that many natives don't feel immigration is an issue that strongly impacts them one way or another. I certainly was guilty of that, at least until I started working in the field. I agree that it is crucial to communicate to white America that they (we--I am white myself) have a stake in treating immigrants decently.

I'm an immigration lawyer now myself, but I agree that there are a lot of unscrupulous and/or incompetent immigration lawyers out there who know they will face few consequences for ripping off immigrants and their families.

I also felt betrayed when I found out some of the crappy things that happen to good people in the name of national security or national unity. I haven't had a family member deported, though--it's hard for me to imagine what you must have gone through.

I got the Clinton quotes from this NY Sun article. Clinton has been saying this stuff around the country: Iowa, S. Carolina, New Jersey, California.

DV said:

I read the article, does not sound good. She used to be better about this. IF this is completely true (it's from the NY Sun) it looks like she is pandering to the dark side.

So then why are the majority of Latino's still holding for her? I know my extended family likes her..they think she can help. Univision and Telemundo also think she is the most pro-latino (immigrant)

Well, it doesnt matter anyway. My wifes interview is coming up next week at the Consulate where if all goes well, we will be denided the K-3 and then offered the 601/212. I got all my docs together to prove my case and I will just hope they adjuticate it quickly approve it. By the way, did you know those forms are $545.00 a piece now?

My lawyer prepared my brief and it's not good at all. Instead of arguing with him about it, I just did it myself with all supporting docs. I did a good job. Visajourney.com and immigrate2us.net helped tremendously.

Wish me luck. And no matter who wins, I hope the stupid laws do get changed but I'm not holding my breath for it.

yave begnet said:

Good luck with your case.

I think Clinton would be much better than Bush or McCain for immigrants. But I don't anticipate her putting much political capital on the line for comprehensive reform.

There are some good explanations for why Clinton is leading among Latin@s and Asian-Americans here, here, and especially here (ouch!). Obama is trying to make some headway with things like the Kennedy endorsement, commitment to driver's licenses in CA, and this post of his at Latina Lista.

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on February 4, 2008 11:42 PM.

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