Jamelle Bouie on Immigration Reform—and More!

Jamelle BouieJamelle Bouie decided to answer questions on Tumblr last night. It was really cool. I’ve never before known what Tumblr was other than a kind of sub-blog that bloggers used with Twitter. But it has a device that allows people to ask questions to a Tumblr user that can then be answered in a permanent way. I also thought it was great that he took the time to do it. And some of the questions were great. One person asked what he thought of unpaid internships. I was quite interested in that because I’ve started ranting about this myself. Bouie wrote, “I think they’re terrible, and serve as a barrier to keep non-rich kids from entering particular high-status professions.” Exactly!

One exchange was pretty funny. Tumblr user dellbell asked, “OK, do you think that there will be comprehensive campaign finance reform, at least at the federal level, during your (presumably significantly longer) lifetime?” Bouie responded, “Nope.” That’s a disconcerting answer, because I’ve always felt that Bouie was a lot more optimistic than I am. I agree with him of course, but I thought that was just because I was cynical. Oh well.

How positive is Bouie? Well, one of his readers asked, “Given that most people don’t follow or read the news and presumably even less the commentary on it, do you ever wonder what the point of all the writing about it is? Is it ultimately anything more than a mostly irrelevant conversation between a small set of people with interests in these kinds of subjects?” Such a question would just make me slink away, but not Bouie:

Thanks for bumming me out, dude.

Though, yes, sometimes I do wonder what the point is. And then I chat with the many, many folks who care about issues, and self-government, and I feel better about my choice of profession.

But by far, the best question was from me. (That could be boast or sarcasm, but it’s probably both.) Since I had just written about Bernie Sanders’ concerns regarding the immigration bill, I figured I would put the question to Bouie. I was especially interested because Bouie writes a lot for the Plum Line, and Greg Sargent has been a Pollyanna about the subject: largely pushing what’s good and ignoring what’s bad. So I asked, “You seem to be in favor of the Gang of Eight immigration bill. Given that there are large negatives in the bill for liberals (long path to citizenship; gobs more H1-B and H2-B visas), where are you in terms of the pros and cons? Also: what would turn you against it?”

Bouie does like the bill a lot more than I do, but it was interesting to read his thoughts. The truth is that I don’t know where I stand on it. My natural cynicism makes me think that the final bill is destined to be terrible. But we’ll see. Here’s Bouie’s response:

If the immigration bill were purely a way to import cheap labor, I’d be much less willing to support it. As it stands, it’s imperfect, but providing a pathway to citizenship is an important enough goal that I’m willing to be a little disappointed.

I would only add that the long path to citizenship is by far the worst aspect of the bill. But even 11 years is better than the current situation, so I’m (yet again) largely with him.

I really appreciate Bouie taking the time to answer questions. And I like the Tumblr interface. Twitter has two problems. First, I have a hard time composing 140 character questions and I don’t get much from most 140 character answers. Second, tweets easily get lost—especially to people with almost 15,000 followers.


With all due respect for John Scalzi, Bouie has limited taste in literature. But not completely.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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