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Oct. 7 2009 - 11:04 am | 188 views | 1 recommendation | 4 comments

Has Bill O’Reilly warmed up to immigration reform?

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Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but judging from a recent interview, it seems Bill O’Reilly has tamped down his onetime strident views on immigration reform, an issue the White House has promised to focus on late this year and in 2010.

On the “O’Reilly Factor” Sept. 29, Bill O’Reilly debated the wisdom of including undocumented immigrants in “Obamacare” with author, activist and academic Juan Hernandez, who said it made sense to allow undocumented immigrants, who are much younger on average than the U.S. population, pay full price for coverage in the proposed insurance exchanges. These youthful immigrants, Hernandez said, would drive down overall health care costs. During Obama’s September health care speech, according to Hernandez,

… you could … hear millions and millions of Hispanics screaming out, ‘what?’ Wait a minute Mr. Obama you promised us immigration reform, and now you’re telling us that the undocumented won’t even be able to pay … for the health care he’s proposing.”

O’Reilly responded President Obama would be scalded politically if he attempted anything of the sort. “He can’t possibly include illegal immigrants in his health care bill,” said O’Reilly. “He would be a one-term president … if that happened.” But then the conversation got interesting. Hernandez said Hispanics were distressed that more progress had not been made on immigration reform, almost a year into the president’s first term. And O’Reilly responded:

Immigration reform, there’s going to be some kind of thing in the next couple of years. It’s not going to be an amnesty thing. But there will be a pathway … and … that’s fine.”

That’s fine? O’Reilly’s referring to a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 12 million undocumented immigrants, which is what the White House says it wants, as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the creaky, medieval immigration system. During the 2006 and 2007 legislative battles over immigration reform legislation, which ultimately collapsed in the U.S. Senate, O’Reilly often repeated the hardline phrase that undocumented immigrants had to “get in line” to get on track for U.S. citizenship, meaning essentially, they would have to go back to their home countries and start the process all over again.

Here’s O’Reilly in March 2006: “I think that they have to earn citizenship, no pathway. You get in line. You get in line.”

If he’s OK with a pathway now, as a pathway’s generally understood in immigration policy circles, that marks a big turnaround for the Fox News anchor.

Note: This is a cross-post from New America Media’s blogs.


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    Readers, thanks for your eyeball time, please send tips, corrections, complaints, rants, etc. My email is ballve [at] gmail.com. I was born in Buenos Aires and raised there and in Atlanta, Mexico City and Caracas. I've written and reported on Latin America for almost a dozen years. I started out as an Associated Press reporter and editor in the agency’s Brazil and Caribbean bureaus. In 2007 I co-founded El Sol de San Telmo, a community newspaper in Buenos Aires. I am now a contributing editor for the nonprofit New America Media, Americas correspondent for Amsterdam-based Research World magazine (publication of the international association of market and public opinion researchers), and a 2010-2011 Lemann Fellow at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

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