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The Right Stuff On Immigration

The debate is getting off to a good start. Both candidates appear sure and prepared. (Is it just me, or is Obama sitting up ramrod-straight in hopes of appearing more presidential?) The back-and-forth on immigration was particularly interesting. Both candidates are acutely aware that this is a huge issue in Texas.

Hillary walks through the basic Democratic platform when it comes to immigration (border security, a caring-but-penalty-laden path to citizenship). Obama concurs, then makes a point I had not yet heard uttered in formal or informal debate: Reforming "the legal immigration system" would be a priority of his as president. Not only does Obama make a point to cool off the "ugly" rhetoric of the last two years (really, jingoistic nativism does not a political platform make), but this answer is the kind that really resonates with "the rest" of the immigrant families in the United States (like mine, not from Mexico or other parts of Latin America).

Frankly, some foreign-born Americans resent that the open doors of Ellis Island allowed past generations (mainly European) to seek opportunity in the United States, but that today, that opportunity is only available to those with the good fortune to have been born just south of the U.S. border. Frequently, America's "front door" is a more perilous hurdle than crossing the Sonoman desert. Even for good people with valuable skill sets, applying for a visa just to enter the U.S.--let alone to study, gain a job, or permanent residency--is a costly and futile task. Tamping down the de facto State Department quota system, and the shame-inducing lotteries that go on at embassies worldwide would be a good start.

A follow-up question questions the continuation of the border fence, in spite of the buck-passing effect it has had between the San Diego region and Arizona. Clinton takes a page from her 2000 "listening tour" of New York State, saying she would "listen to the people who live along the border." This common-sense answer nets her a big round of applause, with good reason. Are we really dividing up backyards and public campuses with the inane fence?

It's great that the Democratic party, at least, has thoughtful, humane, yet pragmatic solutions to a big problem.

--Dayo Olopade