Sound of Ideas on Immigration

On Wednesday evening, March 6th, we went to the Morley Library in Painesville to attend the first in a series of stops for the WCPN (ideastream 90.3) “Sound of Ideas Community Tour.” The topic for this stop was immigration, so we were especially interested. To secure a seat in the first row, we arrived early and got to talk to Mr. Michael McIntyre who hosted the program as well as Ms. Rachel Rood, the show’s producer, and Mr. Mark Rosenberger, its chief content officer, who all said that they appreciated the support that Ms. Margaret W. Wong has given to ideastream over the years.

The presenters maintained a good balance between questions and discussions and thus always kept the format interesting. First, Mr. McIntyre directed questions to Lake County Commissioner Jerry Cirino and immigration attorney,Heather Prendergast. Then he opened it up for questioning from the audience, which consisted of about 100 people. It seems that this was more than they were expecting, as the crowd filed the space.

Next, he queried Ms. Ana Padilla, a local teacher’s aide, and a young DACA recipient named Luis who understandably asked for his last name to be withheld. Afterwards, more questions were allowed from the audience.

Lastly, Mr. McIntyre called forward Mr. Mark Gilson, retired nursery owner, along with, once again, Commissioner Cirino and Ms. Prendergast for some more inquiries which was followed, just as before, by audience interaction.

In his introduction, Mr. McIntyre outlined some of the current controversies surrounding immigration, including questionable ICE procedures, deportations, DACA, and the declaration of a national emergency about the U.S./Mexican border. Along the way, he pointed out that former President Ronald Reagan initiated an amnesty program and that former President Obama deported a record number of people during his administration, most of whom were serious criminals. However, as of late, undocumented people who had committed no serious crimes were being targeted too. So, as a result, some people were now calling for the abolition of ICE.

Subsequently, Mr. McIntyre said that Painesville seemed to be an ideal place to have this discussion because a significant percentage of the area was Hispanic, of whom many are U.S. citizens by birth while others are foreign-born (documented and the undocumented included). Thus, federal policies had a special effect on this community.

To attempt to quote what everyone exactly said would be too daunting and possibly unfair because if we got just a few words wrong, it could be harmful to the reputations of those involved. Therefore, we urge that our readers listen to the program in its entirety which will be broadcast on WCPN on Wednesday morning, March 13th.

We will say, though, that we found the testimony of Mr. Gilson to be especially pertinent because, as a nursery owner, he had had experience working with the H-2A (Temporary Agricultural Employment of Foreign Workers) and was able to speak with credibility about the need for an expanded guest worker program that would be less cumbersome for small businesses to administer than the H-2A had proven to be. He also spoke of his trip to Washington, DC in 2013 where he lobbied on behalf of the comprehensive immigration reform package which was passed with bipartisanship in the U.S. Senate but stalled by the U.S. Congress.

Accordingly, it was our impression that all parties (i.e. panelists and audience) agreed that the need for some kind of comprehensive immigration reform was at the root of the current problem. We also believed that most of the people realized that there was a need for some kind of special consideration for the undocumented now living for many years in the United States, especially for  young people (aka those eligible for DACA) who had been brought to the U.S. at an early age by there parents and this was the only country that they were at all familiar with.

Another point that everyone, at least the panelists, agreed upon was that there was definitely a legitimate need for ICE and no one called for its abolition despite the reservations that were voiced about some of its current practices.

The differences centered around priorities with some contending that it was necessary to prevent more undocumented people from entering the United States before centering on the possibility for some sort of legalization/amnesty for those currently living here because, otherwise, the struggle will be ongoing while others maintained that border security and a stabilizing status for the undocumented could be accomplished simultaneously or, at least, not at the expense of the other.

Along these lines, a particularly telling moment occurred when it was said, “I understand the necessity for ICE but it is not right to use DACA as a bargaining chip for the wall…let’s not toy with people’s lives.”

To be sure, the discussion became intense at certain moments such as when it touched on the issue of capital crimes committed by the undocumented but overall the ambiance was respectful.

We look forward to attending the next stop of the “Sound of Ideas Community Tour” which will take place in Ashtabula in early April, 2019 wherein the topic will be access to health care.