7.01.2007

Immigration Q cut at the PBS debate

Surprise, surprise.

Now we learn that there was a question on immigration at this week's PBS Democratic Presidential Debate in Wasington, D.C., but columnist Ruben Navarrette never got to ask it.

Why? Because the poorly managed gabfest and ran out of time? Too much primping, posing, audience whooping and book selling?

Perhaps. But it appears that running out of time wasn't the only problem. By Navarette's own account, the 'official' immigration question (i.e., the that wasn't asked) wasn't even a very good one: Something about what would you do about immigration going forward? It would've elicited the same kind stump speech snippets that so many of the other questions earned. And of course, everyone would have had, what, 1 second to answer it?

Navarrette writes that he would have preferred to: 1) ask a question on the hugely important immigration issue and done so at Tavis Smiley's black-brown forum; and 2) and that his uncensored question would have been a provocative one.

He says he would've asked something like this:
Ted Hayes, a black activist in Los Angeles, has often said that 'illegal immigration is the greatest threat to black America since slavery.' You also see community groups such as 'Choose Black America' likewise voicing concern that illegal immigration has helped displace African-American workers.

What do you make of this aspect of the debate? And, if African-Americans are being pushed out of the economy by illegal immigrants, many of whom have less than a grade-school education and speak no English, what does that say -- about illegal immigrants and the African-Americans they're supposedly displacing?"

Now that's a darn good question--and one that needs to be dealt with if we're going to make racial progress in this country. What's the benefit in stifling that debate?

So here's my take on this whole sad episode (in which I admittedly played a minor role in):

1) If the forum is truly a black-brown forum, why were there so few Latinos involved at all levels? Anybody watching couldn't help but conclude that the event was a black event. If that's what you and PBS want, why not just say so?

2) Leaving the immigration question to the 3rd round was risky given time constraints and the propensity for people to go over their time allotments. Knowing this, why leave such an important question to the end? Instead, why was it not given equal billing with the first question on the supreme court decision? Not having done so sent a clear and unmistakable message that issues of importance to Latinos were not welcomed. It also sent a message that style or substance mattered most.

3) And why the weak question? Who's decision was it to disallow Navarette's more provocative query? Who exactly were we trying to protect?

The Immigration Question I Didn't Get To Ask (by Ruben Navarette - 7.1.07)