Not Enough Room for Debate

By Mark Krikorian on July 14, 2011

I like the New York Times "Room for Debate" web feature, which solicits mini-op-eds on the topic of that day from five to ten people, giving you a better sense of the various wrinkles of a given policy discussion. Wednesday's installment was on the asylum process, pegged to a story on asylum-seeking liars like the DSK accuser and famous police-shooting victim Amadou Diallo.

And you sure do get a sense of the shape — or rather narrowness — of national discourse on immigration from the makeup of the contributors. There are four immigration lawyers or amnesty advocates, who all think our (routinely gamed) laws need to be even looser; one representative of the government, in this case the head of the immigration judges' association, who makes a useful but bureaucratic point about the processing of asylum claims (she echoed a similar recommendation made by a former colleague of hers in a recent CIS publication on immigration courts); and, finally, me. The dearth of elite spokesmen for a hawkish immigration stance is fine with me, because less competition means it's easier for CIS staff to get in print and on the air. But it does highlight the elite/public gap on immigration — the public is lopsidedly hawkish, while the elites are even more lopsidedly dovish. A more-representative elite would mean that I'd have more competition and might lose face time to people taller, thinner, smarter, wittier, and better-looking than me — but our nation's policies would probably be less verkakte, so it'd be worth it.