You couldn’t be faulted for thinking that Beyond Borderlines, MSNBC’s two-hour live special on immigration that aired last night, was just going to be another clueless attempt to discuss the issue. But in a live show that seemed at once chock-full of information and a bit rushed, MSNBC did a pretty good job of exploring the divisive topic.
Immigration is a complex subject and the program reflected that, giving time to such hot-button issues as immigration enforcement, education and the DREAM Act, the Latino vote and the movement to repeal or modify the 14th amendment.
Co-hosted by MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O’Donnell and Voto Latino’s Maria Teresa Kumar at the University of San Diego, the show featured a large group of commentators—most of whom were a mix of liberal and conservative Latinos who offered a fairly wide range of views while managing to stay pretty civil: from Kumar herself on the left, to Harris County Sherriff, TX Adrian Garcia on the right.
Among the standouts were actress and Voto Latino co-founder Rosario Dawson, who clearly has a well-rounded view of American history. “Change is scary,” she said of anti-immigrant sentiment, “I’m sure it was scary for Native Americans.” Asked to comment on a video segment filmed in an Oklahoma town where white Americans expressed their frustrations about undocumented immigrants in their midst, she pointed out that the railroad tracks that dominate the town were likely laid down by Chinese workers in 19th century.
Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart blamed both Republicans and Democrats for failing to tackle immigration reform and had a very balanced but impassioned view of the issue: “The ranchers on the border who have people that they don’t know running through their fields accompanied by guys with AK-47s, have a right to be safe. Everyone has a right to be safe. But there are people who are here, who are working and who have a right to their dreams.”
The two-hour time slot was generous, though the start time of 10 p.m. was not the best choice and unrealistic if you’re trying to retain an audience, but at least MSNBC started a conversation that we should all pick up.