MY BADGE OF HONOR
Some of you may remember in March my comments on the ridiculous claim that Lou Dobbs now makes that he only opposes illegal immigration and is a champion for those who want to come to the US legally. As one who has watched Dobbs' show regularly for years, I knew this was a bunch of malarkey. But how to prove it?
And then it came to me. The great thing about the Internet (and the terrible thing as well in some cases) is that everything lives forever in cyberspace. I went to CNN.com and found that the network publishes transcripts for all of its shows and has them all posted for at least the last six years. I did an exhaustive search of all of the transcripts for Dobbs' show and found more than 100 episodes where legal immigration - non-immigrant visas, green cards and asylum topics - were discussed as opposed to the typical bashing of illegal immigration. And guess what, with one possible exception, every show had something nasty to say about a legal immigration category. I inventoried all of the transcripts and put up links to each story so people could take a look for themselves at each report.
Yesterday I was boarding a plane when I got a call from my assistant telling me that Mr. Dobbs' show had called asking me to be a guest. I had no idea why and while I was planning on declining (I don't think pro-immigration people should be appearing on the show for a variety of reasons), I was curious about why I was being invited. According to the show producer, I was being invited to discuss research on my blog and the show's coverage of immigration. While the chance to get to debate Mr. Dobbs might be fun, I politely declined the invitation. Despite the fact that some folks in the anti camp think I'm just a greedy immigration lawyer and appearing on the Dobbs show would probably be very good for business, I decided to go with my gut instinct.
Then this morning I learned about why I probably got the call from the Dobbs folks. A colleague congratulated me on being mentioned in yesterday's Wall Street Journal in a letter submitted by Douglas Rivlin:
It's the Welcome That Has Changed
May 5, 2008; Page A14
Pope Benedict's visit to the U.S. scratched a nerve with the deportation-only immigration lobby that is revealing. B.J. Khalifah's letter of April 25
says that the difference between today's immigrants and the Irish,
Polish, and Italian immigrants of yesteryear is that the latter came
legally. The immigrants haven't changed, but the welcome has. Unless
you were Chinese, black, or had tuberculosis, you were relatively
assured that you would pass the test at Ellis Island. Now we allow for
just 5,000 low-skilled workers annually to come on permanent employment
visas and scratch our heads when people go around our system, not
Fred Medero's letter the same day claims that
deportation advocates Tom Tancredo and talk-show host Lou Dobbs are
opposed only to illegal immigration. Research by attorney Greg Siskind
suggests that of 96 times Lou Dobbs talked about legal immigration on
his nightly CNN show, dating back to 2001, 92 times he painted legal
immigration in a negative light. Rep. Tancredo is a proponent of
eliminating legal immigration altogether, thereby guaranteeing a high
level of illegal immigration in an expanding economy with a retiring
Immigration happens. We are a nation of mutts from all
over the world and we put together the greatest country on the planet.
We should have a legal regime to regulate immigration in a 21st-century
economy. Until we do, Pope Benedict is right that we should respect the
humanity and dignity of individuals and families who are forced to come
illegally because legal avenues are practically non-existent or take
decades to access.
Douglas G. Rivlin
Director of Communication
National Immigration Forum
Well, that was kind of cool (though Mr. Rivlin was being generous - I believe there was only one non-negative story and it was basically a neutral mention of the O-1 visa category). And given that the National Immigration Forum is a really great organization, even better. And it explained why Dobbs' folks wanted to talk. But then the best part happened. Apparently, while I was on the airplane last night, Dobbs' "news" show aired and the host gave one of his famous holier-than-thou rebuttals to the Rivlin letter. Here's the transcript from CNN.com:
DOBBS: The pro-amnesty lobby at it again, telling all-out lies about my
position on illegal immigration and our border security crisis. The
latest example of the pro-illegal aliens' movements' lies coming in a
letter to the "Wall Street Journal" today. Douglas Rivlin, director of
communication for the National Immigration Forum, says quote, "research
by attorney Greg Siskind suggests that 96 times Lou Dobbs talked about
legal immigration on his nightly CNN show, dating back to 2001, 92
times he painted legal immigration in a negative light."
Well, Mr. Rivlin, here's a little research you might add to your own.
The vast majority of Greg Siskind's analysis is based on my justified
criticism of abuses in the system for temporary work visas,
specifically H1B visas in nearly every case, not legal immigration. As
for other cases cited by Mr. Siskind, who, by the way is, as you might
guess, an immigration lawyer, we highlighted legitimate concerns about
chain migration, terrorism, fraudulent asylum applications, as well.
For the record, I am absolutely supportive of legal immigration. In
fact, I favor even higher levels of legal immigration when it suits
public policy. Let me repeat -- we are the most welcoming nation in the
world for immigrants and I've consistently called for an increase in
legal immigration when warranted.
And also for the record,
we should point out that the National Immigration Forum is supported by
groups such as -- are you ready -- the National Restaurant Association,
the American Nursery and Landscape Association, and the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce, all groups that we should point out, that have a vested
interest in importing as much cheap labor into this country as
possible, and by the way, the "Wall Street Journal" failed to note
that. And, of course, that's understandable, too.
I would just respond to Mr. Dobbs by turning the question back to him - where out of the years and years of your nightly coverage of immigration is there a single positive story on immigration? Yes, a large number of your stories on legal immigration had to do with H-1B visas, but that's what you chose to cover and the H-1B is the main legal immigration route for skilled workers. And there are numerous other subjects in the coverage as well, all of which are critical. If you really do think legal immigration may be good for the country, surely in your years of nightly coverage of the subject, you could have found a couple of minutes to say something nice. You say you consistently have called for an increase in legal immigration "when warranted." Except you've never actually mentioned when it's warranted. You are against family immigration and have called it "chain migration." You have attacked the employment-based green card system. You've targeted the most common work visas - the H-1B and L-1. You've attacked our asylum system as basically being the immigration strategy of choice for terrorists.
You've got your nightly bully pulpit, Mr. Dobbs, with several hours each week to say exactly what you think with the depth you need. Yet you've had not a single report praising any aspect of legal immigration. And while you say you support more legal immigration "when appropriate" your coverage indicates that "appropriate" is only when a certain place freezes over.