Obama, Clinton last night on immigration.


Not much separates Obama and Clinton on the issues, including immigration, though, once again, there is a significant difference in emphasis.

Obama’s emphasis is immigrant rights, which includes his defense of the Dream Act as a policy he would vigorously pursue as president. It is worth noting that just yesterday, the Maryland state senate in Annapolis held hearings on SB 591 that would afford in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant high school graduates. Ten other states have enacted similar policies, but the Dream Act would establish a federal mandate and include financial aid.

Obama’s emphasis on rights is important because democrats haven’t emphasized immigrant rights issues for more than 20 years (not really since Mondale). It is important to reclaim this way of framing the issue on moral and political grounds as well as tactically for the fall campaign. By framing immigration within a constitutional rights context, an attack line against McCain emerges: Bush threw away the constitution post 911, McCain would leave it in the trash, but Obama would retrieve it, dust it off and return it to its revered place…

Clinton, on the other hand, emphasized the virtual fence, which she described as a friendly/ compassionate alternative to the bricks and mortar fences being constructed along the US-Mexico border.  So on the one hand, Clinton seeks a less punitive immigration enforcement policy than Bush/McCain, but it is important to see that her emphasis remains on enforcement rather than services or rights.

In addition, the virtual fence opens a Pandora’s box into a surveillance society that would intrude on everyone’s rights, immigrants and citizens. The virtual fence is part of a larger immigration control complex that includes SBInet, US-Visit and Real ID. These acronyms describe a fully integrative project that will endeavor to monitor and control immigrants, and in the case of Real ID– all drivers– throughout the country. I would wish each candidate spoke to this component of the issue.

To her credit, Clinton spoke about the need for the federal government to compensate states and local governments for immigrant services they provide. An important point because were this to happen, there would be less support for local anti-immigrant ordinances.

Both Clinton and Obama favored comprehensive reform, but Obama suggested there are different kinds of comprehensive reform. This attempt to go beneath the “comprehensive reform” buzzword shows his attention to policy details.

Both candidates also spoke to the need to help Mexico with its own economy. Once again there are different approaches here. Although the candidates didn’t make the linkages to free trade, they are evident; Hopefully, Obama would follow through on fair-trade substitutes for NAFTA, which would provide greater incentive for Mexican workers to stay in Mexican jobs, rather than crossing the border without papers in search of jobs in the States.

In sum, a different narrative is at work in the two campaigns. Obama’s narrative more closely adheres to the story of American democracy adhering to constitutional rights. Obama here shows how language really does make a difference. By emphasizing the need to stop demonizing immigrants, he makes this compelling foundation for comprehensive immigration reform.

Clinton’s narrative is more a patchwork of micro policy, like a series of short stories, with allusions to personal anecdotes patched together in wonk-like fashion. It may come together but you don’t lose yourself in it.  Clearly, Clinton’s immigration policy would benefit from being more integrative and with a stronger master narrative.

Once people lose themselves in Obama’s words, he’s got their vote.

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3 responses to “Obama, Clinton last night on immigration.

  1. Pingback: Barack Obama News » Blog Archive » obama-clinton on immigration last night.

  2. One at a time — Commander and Chief

    In last night’s debate. Obama answered the question on qualifications for a Commander and Chief question to my satisfaction. The pundits missed this, probably because being embedded with the troops isn’t same as being a solider.

    Hillary rambled on like she was reading the international page of the newspaper. She didn’t appear to have any military insight nor did she mention any military issues.

    As an ex-Marine (1060-1964), I can say this much: I wish someone would have asked John Kennedy what qualified him to become the Commander and Chief? He brought us Viet Nam and the aborted Bay of Pigs. I could go down the list…civilian presidents playing in a global sandbox and directing America’s armamentarium, the world’s largest.

    It was John Kennedy’s and Lyndon Johnson’s war in Viet Nam that made me a Republican. I did vote for McGovern in 1972 and John Kerry in 2004 because of their anti-war stance. With me it’s personal, I lost way too many buddies in Nam.

    Of course, I wish someone would have asked George Bush the same question on his qualification for being Commander and Chief.

    From my perspective, the qualifications for being a Commander and Chief includes both a record of good judgment and a knowledge of military issues. The most basic qualification is being anti-war. For years the sole purpose of maintaining America’s military strength was not to win wars, it was to avoid or deter wars. Bill Clinton gutted America’s intelligence community, our military and he closed military bases. Enough said.

    To use an old Marine platitude, Obama has his “head screwed on right”. Obama’s desire to meet the enemy is the first step in deterrence. That shows good judgment, leadership and fearlessness. He has guts.

    Sen. Clinton’s criterion is to only meet with democracies is a George Bush type of foreign policy. It’s also hypocritical, U.S. presidents have supped and swilling with many dictators…hells-bells, America financed them.

    In my opinion, Clinton isn’t qualified as a Commander and Chief. Most military people who heard her response last night knew this immediately.

  3. The age-old pesky U.S.-Mexico border problem has taxed the resources of both countries, led to long lists of injustices, and appears to be heading only for worse troubles in the future. Guess what? The border problem can never be solved. Why? Because the border IS the problem! It’s time for a paradigm change.

    Never fear, a satisfying, comprehensive solution is within reach: the Megamerge Dissolution Solution. Simply dissolve the border along with the failed Mexican government, and megamerge the two countries under U.S. law, with mass free 2-way migration eventually equalizing the development and opportunities permanently, with justice and without racism, and without threatening U.S. sovereignty or basic principles.

    Click the url and read about the new paradigm for U.S.-Mexico relations.

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