The Sanctuary, a progressive on-line community advocating for “humane and practical immigration reform…” asked the two major presidential contenders to respond to their questionnaire probing mainly their positions on immigration.  Only Barack Obama complied. The Sanctuary editors characterize as “troubling” some of Obama’s responses, questioning even “his commitment to true change of the current immigration paradigm.”

A glance at the interview reveals Obama’s ambiguity, suggesting that several of his positions can indeed be interpreted as “troubling.”  In the interview, he seems to be trying to be hardened and humanitarian at the same time.  Obama would not, for example, rule out workplace detention and deportation raids of the undocumented, conceding just that he would review the practice for their “effectiveness,” while commenting that the raids seem counter intuitively cost effective.  Nothing was said here questioning the intrinsic humanity of such harsh practices.  At the same time, though, Obama expressed concern that children are not left unattended should Mommy and Daddy be hauled into prison.

In the interview, Obama repeated his recommendation that the undocumented be slapped on the wrist by “paying a fine” for their transgression and revisited his admonishment that they “learn English, abide by the law, and go to the back of the line for citizenship.”  Of course, we want all our residents to abide by the law (those that are just, of course), and we think it advantageous to have command of the lingua franca, but does knowing English necessarily prove that a person is contributing more to the society than one who doesn’t?  The same holds for citizenship eligibility.  Are there not numbers of out-of-status immigrants who would make model citizens, perhaps better Americans, than those who’ve had greater privileges of entry?

The fine seems gratuitously punitive: Why should someone earning paltry or worse wages and working under oppressive conditions, who is probably also contributing a hefty sum in Social Security taxes to have the benefits go into others’ pockets, be then further penalized by having to pay tribute?

Most thorny is his support of the border fence, stressing the need to “preserve the integrity of our borders,” even suggesting “some additional fencing.”  His concern, the Senator says, is for “security” (a buzzword word that could mean—and has been used to mean–so many things, be applied in so many contexts) and to prevent “unsafe undocumented entry,“ now implying concern for the perilous path many risk their lives to take on entering. While the Senator maintains he’d be careful to ensure the environmental integrity of any new construction, environmental groups have already demonstrated the destructive effects of both extant and proposed fencing on the earth and wild life.

Other Obama positions on immigration included in The Sanctuary interview:

  1. Support for a comprehensive guest worker program including the right to stay.
  2. Support for the positive residency allowance provision of the so-called DREAM Act which   failed passage last year and which would have granted meritorious undocumented  students provisional residency based on community service.
  3. Support for raising the number of both low-skilled workers eligible for green cards and of temporary H-1B visas issued to highly skilled foreign workers.
  4. Opposition to abandoning family-based visas (which help keep families here and intact) instead of adopting a merit-based system for remaining in the country.
  5. Opposition to previously proposed “touchbacks” that would require out-of-status immigrants to return to their country of origin in order to legitimize their status.

Meanwhile, the blogosphere and others on the web, thanks to the hotshot new poll-tracking website,, is punditing that Latinos will be the ultimate deciders in this election, as they constitute critical voting blocks in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, three of the six swing states currently positioned as final arbiters.  Consequently, both candidates have initiated a major drive for the Latino vote.

McCain will prevail if voters overlook his current coziness with the fringe Republicans’ tough-guy nativist stance and remember the days when he and Senator Ted Kennedy co-sponsored a more nuanced reform bill.  Obama will score if he proudly owns the humanitarian talking points of his Sanctuary positions and can truly appeal to Latinos as a guy who cares. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.