November 17, 2009

Liveblogging Tonight's Immigration Forum

Carroll Andrew Morse

I'm on the Brown University Campus, where a panel of Rhode Island all-stars is preparing for a panel discussion on the issue of immigration.

Panelists include RI State Senator Juan Pichardo, Judge Roberto Gonzalez, former U.S. Attorney Robert Corrente, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, RI State Representative David Segal, and Reverend Donald Anderson. Moderator will be Professor Wendy Schiller of Brown.

Audience members include Terry and Karin Gorman and Joe Bernstein.

Brown undergrads will present 3 views of immigration, "families first", "economy first", and "security first".

FFirst: Focus on family reunification, remove arbitrary per-country annual limits, "regularize" illegal immigrants (and make their income taxable). Border enforcement does not work -- it just makes the journey more dangerous. Enforcement within the US is even more disconcerting; violates civil liberties and leads to profiling. "Guest worker" programs should be ended.

EFirst: Immigrants play central role in keeping the US economically competitive. Immigrants take jobs that Americans won't take. Falling fertility rates mean that immigrants are needed to prevent a labor shortage. Hospitality, food-service and construction need low-skill immigrant labor. Costs of services and goods would increase if immigration was limited. High-skilled immigrants are important too. "Regularize" illegal immigrants and expand guest worker programs. Abolish e-verify.

Andrew editorializes: Other than the guest worker position, I don't see much difference between EF and FF.

SFirst: Concentration of Spanish-speaking immigrants leads to social isolation. They don't share the "Protestant Work Ethic" (I'm just reporting here.). Bi-lingual education eats up resources that could be used otherwise. If we can't control the border, we don't know who may come in. Drug and human traffickers take advantage of an open border. Immigration must be curtailed, until we can absorb the 35 million illegal immigrants who are already here. Significant resources should be used for border control, state and local police forces should be used as a force multiplier.

Over to the panel...Intros just finished...

Schiller throws out 3 questions. Andrew types only fast enough to record 2. What is the top immigration policy priority for the nation? What is you view on movements by "some groups" to discourage participation in the census? (Backfill: 3rd question was how might the RI priorities differ from Federal priorities)

Sen. Pichardo: Top priority is concentrating on comprehensive reform at the Federal level. RI priority is having a vibrant immigrant community and having family reunification. We also need stronger labor laws to protect workers. We need to help integrate the immigrant community by providing more services to them, for instance more state and local funding for English classes.

"We are a sovereign nation that must protect our borders", but we must do it in a humane way. And we can't do it with piecemeal policies -- we need comprehensive immigration reform.

Judge Gonzalez: We live in a society where lies and hate are promoted about immigrants. Praises removal of Lou Dobbs from CNN. Long history in this country of promoting the broken immigration system we have to today. Indigenous populations were decimated to make room for European settlers (I'm just reporting here). No need to apply for immigration papers in the past. CIA has toppled Latin American governments -- had the effect of making them poor and difficult to manage. Everyone agrees the immigration system is broken. We can do this if we're all honest about what the issues are (though I'm not sure the preceding commentary a great example of that.) Not convinced that an open border is a security problem.

Now a strange pivot: The Judge is not sure that legalizing immigrants is the "moral" thing to do, but it's good for the economy. Prof Schiller cuts him off, for time...

Currently Without Title Corrente: All 3 perspectives must be considered simultaneously, for both political and policy effectiveness reasons. Ignoring any perspective will just bog down the debate. Instead of surrounding the headquarters of ICE after an enforcement action, people should surround the capitol and demand better laws. It's unfair to blame the people enforcing the laws for the problems with our immigration system. A fence cannot solve the problem -- the full infrastructure needed of border security is an unbelievable expense. But knowing who is entering and leaving the country is critically important. ICE was the agency that was first to identify the September 11 attackers.

It's way past time for comprehensive reform. The current Napolitano proposal is similar to what was offered before.

Mayor Avedisian: Endorses Corrente's all-3-at-once view. Takes on census question -- declining to participate won't punish elected officials, it punishes residents. All kinds of grant money is based on census figures (and even one of our Congressional seats may be at risk in RI). Napolitano proposal is short on specifics; the Mayor is disappointed by the lack of detail. Family reunification issues need a framework that has latitude for case-by-case consideration.

Rep. Segal: Need census participation, so we can ultimately take civil-rights issues to the courts (I'm just reporting here). We're a stable and attractive country, but US policies have encouraged instability elsewhere. Ethnic enclaves aren't really a problem, they have been a source of strength and pride in RI, cites Rhode Island's portuguese community as an example.

Rev. Anderson: Addresses the Judge directly; every aspect of immigration is a moral issue. Our Senators and Congressman lack the courage to do the right thing, because they are too concerned about getting re-elected. A pathway to citizenship should be the priority. If more immigrants looked like his own ancestors did, the issue might not be such a big problem (Computer acting up -- I'll have to backfill in a little bit.)....

(I got up to ask a question here, so I wasn't able to liveblog the first few questions. When it was my turn, I asked Rev. Anderson about whether the use of the term "undocumented" in its various forms could be taken to mean that citizenship meant only having the proper documents. Rev. Anderson answered that there indeed was much more to citizenship. More on this to come in the near future.).

Wendy Schiller asks Joe Bernstein a question (I'll explain later): What one thing would you change in immigration law if you could? JB: Deportation of illegal aliens who commit crimes. And people who want the law enforced shouldn't be characterized by a handful of bigots [Backfill: Joe B. had taken offense to the characterization of immigration enforcement agents as using "Gestapo tactics", which I believe had been mentioned during the question-and-answer period, and related several personal experiences as to why he thought that was inaccurate, leading Prof. Schiller to ask him what he would change if he could."])

Terry Gorman also objected to the assumption of racist motivation to people who want the law enforced. Rev. Anderson answers that there is an "atmosphere" out there that could lead to problems. Gorman answers with the example of Newport; there are a large number of illegal immigrants there of European origin, and he wants the law enforced there as much as anywhere else.

Closing statements:

Sen. Pichardo: Debate cannot be piecemeal at the state level. It must be at the Federal level. E-Verify needs to be made more effective before it is implemented, and it should be a part of comprehensive reform. Everyone should participate in the census. Suggests a connection between the Governor rescinding his executive order and the census that I didn't quite follow (but the Senator is delivering a letter to the Governor tomorrow that will explain things).

Judge Gonzalez: We need to sift the hate, racism and xenophobia out of the debate (but tells Terry Gorman that he's not talking about him). There are technical and procedural problems with E-Verify. The state shouldn't be trying to work out solutions to what is a Federal problem. Also, he explains what he means by Gestapo tactics -- bring people out in irons during immigration raids, and pregnant women being shackled to their beds when delivering their babies.

(More technical glitches -- my touchpad is too sensitive, and I keep getting knocked to a different page, without stuff being saved. Justin, do you have this problem with your laptop?)

CWT Corrente: We can't afford as a country to have the immigration issue stall, as it has so far. We need a solution that address all of the concerns.

Rep Segal: It's a Federal issue, but the state legislature is having some success in helping the people who are here. (Another tech glitch -- not sure why these keep happening in the Segal/Anderson speakers bloc)

Rev. Anderson: Bypassess the "older" people to talk to the students. Immigration decisions affect real people. In the Kingdom of God, there are no second class citizens. We need to think about what put them in their current situations -- and if the roles were reversed we might understand their situations better. We have a moral responsibility that we have to live up to.

Apologies for the gaps. Signing off for now...

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

The overriding principle here is the sovereignty of a country (i.e., the United States).

Thank you.

Posted by: Monique at November 17, 2009 6:21 PM

I'm more impressed with the audience than this panel. Juan Pichardo? Rev. Donnie? Daisy Segal? lol What a joke!
Hopefully Joe, Terry and Karin won't hurt themselves trying to stifle their laughter.

Posted by: Tim at November 17, 2009 6:31 PM
In the Kingdom of God, there are no second class citizens.

Yes, but there's a trustworthy, all-powerful king, and everybody there (not everybody who is or has been) has earned the privilege.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 17, 2009 8:53 PM

Monique, apparently they do not care about our sovereignty, because as Roberto Gonzalez says that no terrorists come from the southern border. The panel was slightly lop-sided (ya think) Possibly the only unbiased person on the panel seemed to be Dr. Wendy Schiller from Brown U(believe it or not). Thank you Joe Bernstein & Tommy from Providence for coming out and sharing the racist label with us.

Posted by: Karin at November 17, 2009 9:33 PM

umm... I believe I'm going to regret asking this, but there are some statements that beg questions.

"The overriding principle here is the sovereignty of a country (i.e., the United States)."

Does sovereignty override morality and humanity?

It's a serious question; no kidding.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at November 17, 2009 10:32 PM

Among my tenants is an Indian couple. Both the husband and the wife are software engineers. The wife is not working because she cannot get a work permit, although she does have entry papers. It would seem they do enforce the laws against her. Would it be kind of me to suggest to her that she leave the country, sneak back across the border and present herself as a low-skill worker?

As to matters mentioned in the post, when I look at school drop out levels, I cannot understand how we can be short of low skill workers. Is it a matter of low-skill workers willing to work?

Posted by: Warrington Faust at November 17, 2009 10:37 PM

Sovereignty has nothing to do with either morality or humanity, Thomas Schmeling. You've fallen for a false premise.

Posted by: Monique at November 17, 2009 11:03 PM

"Sovereignty has nothing to do with either morality or humanity"

I fully agree, and I'm glad to hear you say it! However,, Monique, I have this concern:

When I see someone say that sovereignty (which that person equates with nationhood) is the overriding principle, I assume (reasonably, I think) that she believes that it overrides all other principles, including morality and humanity.

And I think that our historical experience with people who think nationhood overrides morality and humanity ought to be clear enough to convince us to reject their views without hesitation.

I trust that I don't have to spell out the examples that I have in mind.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at November 17, 2009 11:24 PM

Here's my immigration policy regarding Ff, Ef and Sf.

It's our country, our laws, our rules, our sovereignty now GET THE HELL OUT and we don't owe you a moral, legal, economical or a constitutional reason.

Posted by: Roland at November 17, 2009 11:45 PM

Karin said:
Thank you Joe Bernstein & Tommy from Providence for coming out and sharing the racist label with us.

I know you are being facetious, Karin. Unfortunately there are folks out there that throw the label "racist" around as a way to discredit and deflect anyone who has a different opinion. Or, quite frankly, anyone who actually cites the law as a source. If my father (Joe) were racist against Latinos, I would not exist :) I heard that he did a great job offering the knowledgeable perspective of someone who worked in the law enforcement sector of immigration for 20 years. I wish I could have been in town to hear the debate. I did get to talk to my father about his experience there, and it sounds like he enjoyed having the opportutnity to speak on the subject.

Posted by: Tabetha at November 18, 2009 12:16 AM

If all you immigrants can’t behave and be civil to each other weather you are Republican, Democrat, Left, Right, Middle, Female, Male, Adult, Tween, Child, Gen Y, Gen X, Baby Boomer, what ever your sexual preference is, what ever your religion is, then get the hell out and go back to where you ancestors came from.

I am talking to anyone who can not track their direct blood line back to indigenous native Indians of the North American continent.

Those of you who can’t track your blood line back to indigenous native Indians are considered IMMIGRANTS!

Get over it and start learning to live as a subculture because those of you who are lily white are rapidly becoming a minority.

Posted by: Ken at November 18, 2009 12:23 AM


I agree it was unbalanced panel: 4 in favor of a very liberal immigration policies (Pichardo, Gonzalez, Segal, Anderson), one in favor of "comprehensive" reform but serious about the enforcement piece (Corrente) and one truly local perspective of I've-got-to-look-out-for-my-community-no-matter-what-rules-the-state-and-Feds-decide-on (Avedisian). But more than just the numbers, I thought it was Judge Gonzalez's remarks that set the tone for the evening; with his rather extreme position that racism, hate and xenophobia are the major topics to be discussed when the subject is illegal immigration, he really seemed to be staking out a position that there can be no legitimate opposition to the very liberal policies he supports. It was good that Joe B. and Terry G. were there to take a stand for the position that people can support upholding the law without some underlying nefarious motive (Corrente also gave direct support to this position) -- and it tells us something that no one was willing to say to them directly, given the opportunity, that they were wrong about that.

Posted by: Andrew at November 18, 2009 12:36 AM


So what do you say to someone who says that economics matter and morality doesn't (Judge Gonzalez)? Can we reject his views without hesitation?

Posted by: Andrew at November 18, 2009 12:39 AM

Prof.Schmeling-I don't see how emphasizing sovreignty and national security necessarily leads to or in fact has anything to do with a lack of morality or humanity.
Enforcing the immigration laws should be done with the same guidelines in mind that dictate how we enforce any law.
Please don't try to graft foreign situations onto our experience.This country,as you must well know,being a political science expert,is unique.The concept of sovreignty doesn't exclude anyone here legally,regardless of background.It is based on the need to avoid having an enormous pool of people here about whom we essentially know little or nothing on an individual basis.
Most illegal aliens are individually benign,and aside from violatng immigration laws if the entered illegally or overstayed a visa,are not prone to committing serious crimes any more than the next person.
In the aggregate,however,they constitute a serious national security problem-aside from the criminal element,about 10-15% from my observations(admittedly unscientific)and the potential for terrorist infiltration(unknown,but obviously a serious question),there is also the factor of people carrying diseases that are endemic in areas they come from that are relatively uncommon or even unknown here.
The major disease I encountered in this regard was tuberculosis,going back a good thirty years.This disease is,unlike AIDS,a real boogeyman because it is dpread by the most casual of contacts.I unfortunately found this was affecting many food handlers I arrested in Chicago.How did I know?They were taking Kanamycin,one of the main drugs of choice at that time for TB.
Doing the job of enforcement with the correct degree of morality and humanity should be expected,but morality and humanity cannot be used as reasons to ignore or eviscerate laws passed by Congress and signed by the President(and reviwed ad infinitum by the Judiciary)-in any event,who decides what is moral and humane in this regard?
Enforcing the laws we have made is a moral imperative in my opinion.
How any of this can be conflated with"Brown people"or race in general is a mental block that Rev.Anderson and Judge Gonzalez seem to be struggling with,and Sen.Pichardo somewhat less so.
I think Mr.Corrente was right on the money with many of his comments.For what it's worth,I've known Judge Gonzalez for about 25 years in his capacity as an immigration lawyer,and we had a frank,but courteous exchange on this issue.I don't know Mr.Corrente at all,him being US Attorney long after my retirement.
Prof.Schiller did an outstanding job as moderator and I felt pleasantly surprised that a political science professor at Brown could be so evenhanded in moderating such a discussion of a "hot button"topic at a liberal institution.
I really liked conversing with some of the students afterward,because they had very good serious questions to ask.
The wild eyed radical ISO types seemed to be absent-I guess constructive debate is out of their milieu.

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 18, 2009 5:58 AM


Yes, your Dad is a wonderful man. He did do a great job. We (RIILE) have never met a man with so much knowledge & information under his belt. It's always a pleasure to listen wo him. You would have been proud.


Gonzalez came up to us before it started and had to shake hands with Terry & I. He was so friendly. I was shocked after his comments, although I shouldn't be. When will I learn.

Thomas Schmeling~

Soveriengty means safety. The government is supposed to keep us safe.

Posted by: Karin at November 18, 2009 7:20 AM

the point where i wanted to jump out of my seat and interrupt the speaker was when the rev. don declared the issue to be a moral imperative...implying that there is nothing moral about wanting to preserve a country, enforce its laws, or regulate its borders. in the room of apologists, none of whom apparantly have ever had to compete in the workplace with employees getting underpaid under the table, such a one-sided statement was accepted. i found it offensive. joe b is a rock star, and terry a diplomat!

Posted by: bill rappleye at November 18, 2009 8:45 AM

My son-in-law is from India. He came here as a student, filled out the paperwork, and did what the immigrations laws asked of him. Then he found a job after grad school, filled out the paperwork and paid the fees as the immigrations laws of the USA asked him to. He then married me daughter, changing his status again, and filled out more paperwork, subjected himself to a checkup, and then was questioned by authorities to make sure it wasn't a sham marriage. My daughter had to answer questions too. And of course, they had to pay more fees.

When he recieved his green card, it came in English and Spanish, not Tamal, his native language. He found that interesting, since he bothered to learn the language, the history, and the laws of the land.

Since the downturn of the economy, alot of his Indian friends he worked with and/or went to school with lost their jobs. When they still couldn't find work, and their paperwork expired, did they hide? No, they respected our country enough, to leave graciously, and will re-apply in the future to re-enter.

I find it troubling that clergy, and our supposed lawmakers would be accessories to law breakers. I guess my son-in-law, his friends, and others who follow the immigration laws are suckers for obeying the laws. If an amnesty law passes, giving this wave of lawbreakers a pass, does my son-in-law recieve a refund for all the fees he has paid? I am pretty sure I know the answer.

Posted by: Kathy Santos at November 18, 2009 3:49 PM

Oh, how I long to be able to let such things go without comment (especially when the writer opens with a disclaimer with strongly condescending overtones:

Does sovereignty override morality and humanity?

You're muddying the waters. What Monique wrote (emphasis added) was, "The overriding principle here is the sovereignty of a country." Here, as in: "for the purposes of this discussion about a specific approach to a particular civic policy." Not as in: "in all discussions bearing on the nation in which I live."

Sovereignty, as a component of global social organization, is a partial means toward a proper handling of morality and humanity. Without rules of engagement, neither morality nor a respect for humanity can exist. And if the golden rule is reduced to pure bathos, he with the best pout face defines morality. (Actually, they with ulterior motives for exploiting he with pout face do the defining... and controlling.)

Many of those who advocate for the reassertion of sovereignty are very interested in having our nation conduct itself morally. I fear, however, that you may be spending too much time socializing with folks who define morality in statist terms and who equate morality in traditional terms with fascism.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 18, 2009 8:36 PM

You noticed the condescending tone also?Not in the same league with "Klaus",but trying.
Too bad,because there's no need for it.
I plead guilty to an angry tone oftentimes ,but I don't talk down to anyone.I'm too short for that.And I'm aware how little I know about so many things(like long division).

Posted by: joe bernstein at November 18, 2009 8:45 PM


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