Julia Preston vs. Strange Anger

New York Times reporter Julia Preston was the moderator for an immigration discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations on May 22. While she moderated others, she also repeatedly discussed how there was a lot of strange anger in the land against immigration, because "Americans don't understand it." Immigration, she proclaimed, has become an outlet for a lot of political frustration that "goes beyond the specifics of the issue." Does she mean that white people are getting concerned that people who look different and speak a different language are causing them anxiety? First, she claimed:

I would just say, since I've written a number of stories about this for The Times, I have become a kind of one-woman, you know, channel of expression for people who see the immigration issue as a hot point, you know, who are frustrated or resentful about this. And I can tell you that there is a lot of very angry people in the United States on this issue. And it's a little hard to understand where it's coming from. I mean, the immigration issue has become this sort of open forum for the expression of a lot of political frustration that's out there in the United States that really goes beyond the specifics of the issue.

Then, an audience member disdained "the Lou Dobbs phenomenon in this country...Would this debate, from your perspective, be any easier if we didn't have the sort of rabid perspective introduced into it that his - I know we're on the record, I'm not ashamed to say that - that he introduces?" Preston didn't completely embrace the "rabid Lou" scenario, but returned to the idea that American attitudes are perplexing:

I think Lou does speak for many Americans. You know, since I travel out there in the country, there is a lot of hostility out there. And part of it has to do with the fact that such a large proportion of this wave of immigration are people that don't have legal status. And this has been something that has been very, I think, divisive at the community level, because Americans don't understand it. Suddenly, you know, there's a whole new set of neighbors in the community. And yet there's a distance there, because the neighbors are unsure, and there's a lack of legal status. So I do think that, you know, solving the problem of illegal immigration is a very important thing to do at this point in terms of dealing with his sentiment.

Preston began the panel with three distinct liberals, praising them all for their amazing resumes and their "patient" work against all the illegal aliens are facing from the angry natives:

We are extremely lucky to have three speakers for whom the dynamics of integration of Latino immigrants in the United States is not a theoretical issue. Our speakers represent three organizations that have played very powerful and patient roles in pointing out to Washington the crisis in our immigration system and the dire situation that undocumented immigrants are facing in this country.

And so I think for this session what I'm going to try and do is really have a report from the front about what is going on out there. And again, you have bios and I, again, urge you, as Ray did, to read them, because they really are extraordinary.

Eliseo Medina is the international executive view president of the Service Employees International Union, the SEIU. And this is a union has 1.8 million members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and focuses on hospital and nursing home and home health care workers and also janitors and security workers and public employees.

John Trasvina is the president and general counsel of MALDEF which is the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. And which you now have I think 22 attorneys on staff, is that right? And it's long been recognized as one of the premier Latino litigation and advocacy organizations in the United States.

And Arturo Vargas is the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, NALEO. And this represents - it's a membership organization that represents about 6,000 Latino officials across the United States.

I came across the transcript in a Nexis search of The New York Times.