Lou Dobbs Said What?
Published: January 9, 2010

When it was announced Lou Dobbs, a controversial television commentator, was leaving CNN, I set out to write a column explaining the significance of his views and departure from CNN and whether the controversy surrounding him is truly warranted. I finished a few drafts but had a difficult time tying together my thoughts and arriving at any meaningful conclusions. However, Dobbs’ recent pronouncements, on Fox News’ O’Reilly Factor, in favor of a legalization program for our country’s undocumented population, prompts me once again to think about Dobbs and the relevance of his views.

I must confess that I never regularly tuned in to watch Dobbs’ program, but I do know that he developed a reputation as being an angry, populist, even racist, voice especially when it came to the enforcement of the U.S./Mexico border and U.S. immigration law in general. Apparently, Dobbs’ presentation became too angry and opinionated for CNN management to continue to stomach. Notwithstanding his irritating, and over-generalizing style, I still think he asked some good questions. How did our borders become so porous? Why aren’t our immigration laws strictly enforced? How is it that the undocumented population in the U.S. has reached the 12 to 20 million level? Given his relative popularity and notoriety, one gets the impression that Dobbs is thinking about the basic questions that are on the minds of “regular Americans” (whoever they are).

How did we get to the point where 12 to 20 million people decided that their lives here illegally are better than a “legal” life in their home country? Many, many factors of course. The following are some of my own general, anecdotal and non-scientific observations.

Based on my day to day interactions with employers and foreign nationals seeking to stay in the U.S., it is clear that there is nothing like a hungry, hard working foreign national to fill a job, whether skill or unskilled, professional or non-professional – at least compared to a second or third generation American. But for a small, small percentage, the foreign national coming to the U.S. is coming here to work hard, make money and create a better life than the one he had in his native land. In most cases, it’s not that he works for cheap, but it’s that he has a drive and motivation born out of deprivation, with his homeland providing little or no promise for economic, educational or professional advancement.

In previous generations, U.S. immigration law has mostly found a way to accommodate the demand of U.S businesses for these hungry, enterprising workers, and the ambitions of the foreign nationals seeking to “make it” in the U.S and pursue the American dream. In fact, most would agree that it is the generational infusion of a hungry, enterprising workforce that has been integral to our nation’s evolution and character. In the past couple decades though, it is clear that much, much more of the rest of the world want to come to the U.S., and legal avenues available to accommodate this increased interest have only become fewer. For certain, politicians sense their non-business constituencies to be generally opposed to creating laws allowing for more ways for foreign workers to take U.S. jobs – especially since 9/11 and in our present economic environment.

The result: an undocumented population of 12 to 20 million, professional and non-professional workers alike, who arrive and stay in the U.S. They remain in the U.S. because the U.S. government has made a deliberate decision to not institute deportation proceedings against this otherwise law abiding (but for a small percentage), undocumented population. They remain in the U.S. because life here, even illegally, is better than their life in their home country. In the U.S., unlike in their home countries, they can work hard for a better future, if not for themselves, then for their children. But for most of these people, there exists no vehicle toward legal immigration, no paperwork to complete and no “line” in which to wait their turn. The bottom line, legal avenues for the vast majority of the 12 to 20 million generally do not exist and never did exist.

Back to Lou Dobbs. Dobbs wonders aloud, sometimes very aloud, how the current undocumented population managed to reach its current level — and for this, Dobbs has been portrayed as, among other things, anti-immigrant. But, beneath his bravado and anger, I see someone who asks some honest questions no one seems to want to answer, such as: If the U.S. really can benefit from hungry enterprising workers earning market wage, why don’t we institute laws that allow for such a transaction, as opposed to just looking the other way when it comes to enforcement ?

During his recent appearance on O’Reilly’s show, Dobbs admits that since first taking up immigration as one of his pet issues , he has become wiser and less angry – particularly when it comes to the issue of what to do with our nation’s undocumented. He has resigned himself to accepting the notion that our nation has neither the bureaucratic infrastructure nor emotional strength to deport 12 to 20 million individuals – so let’s be honest, Dobbs realizes, and create an avenue to “legalize” them.

Regardless of his motivations – including his political aspirations, if Lou Dobbs represents the voice of John Q. Public and he has finally accepted the honest and realistic solution of comprehensive immigration reform, and a path to citizenship for the undocumented, perhaps our nation has turned a significant corner in this discussion.

Copyright © 2010, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois