The new Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, was still a comedian and just starting to be an author when I met him at a radio studio in San Francisco in 1996. I was pitching my "The Case Against Immigration" book.
I made the case to him in the waiting room.
He didn't seem to buy it then.
And he definitely didn't buy it last week in his first votes in favor of keeping U.S. jobs in the hands of illegal foreign workers.
A LIBERAL CASE TOO HARD FOR A LIBERAL TO SWALLOW?
I had spoken to an environmentalist gathering in Marin County the night before, driven down across the Golden Gate Bridge that morning in 1996 and I arrived early at the KGO studio. I sat down in a chair in the waiting room across from the guest who was going on ahead of me.
I tossed my "Case Against" book on the coffee table between us and then realized who he was when I saw his book on the table:
"Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and other Observations"
Franken's Dell/Random House book went on to make him a fortune which surely formed some of the financial foundation that moved him into politics and helped him start his improbable run for Senate a decade later. My book was published by the prestigious W.W. Norton & Company, sold reasonably well for a policy book (which means it didn't make money) and moved me into politics as I formed NumbersUSA later that year.
At KGO, I thought Franken gave a curious look at my book and figured that he thought I must be the kind of right-winger he was railing against in his book. So, I struck up a conversation and noted that although I made some good, respectable conservative arguments for reducing immigration, my book primarily provided the liberal reasons for having a lot less immigration. I quickly brought up the great liberal politician Barbara Jordan, who had just died earlier that winter, and said that she and I had come to basically the same conclusions about the need for lower immigration numbers.
The way I remember it, Franken looked at me rather blankly and said something like, "Hmmmm." Then relief crossed his face as the producer came out and told him that the host was ready for him.
LAST WEEK, LIBERAL SENATORS DITCHED THE WORKERS' CAUSE
It says something about Ronn Owens (still there) that Franken's and my books were featured back to back that morning in 1996!
But I remember being frustrated thinking that anybody like Al Franken who was trying to rise as a political liberal automatically steered clear of Barbara Jordan's conclusions about the liberal need for immigration reductions. Here was a civil rights champion who was the first Black American to deliver a keynote address at a presidential nominating convention (Democratic Convention 1976 and again in 1992). But the liberal knee-jerk assumption that high immigration is true to liberal values has kept most liberal leaders from giving Barbara Jordan's immigration recommendations even a cursory look.
High immigration is considered such a bedrock value of most liberal leaders that they will accept all kinds of threats to environmental sustainability, to wage equity and to economic justice for the disabled, ethnic minorities and the poor in order to avoid thinking about reducing the numbers.
That was on parade last week as the Senate voted on proposals to open up hundreds of thousands of jobs for unemployed U.S. workers by keeping illegal aliens from holding jobs and by making it more difficult for more illegal workers to arrive.
Nearly all liberal Senators voted against the unemployed American workers and took the side of the unscrupulous businesses who choose to hire illegal foreign labor. The Democrats who followed the Barbara Jordan path and voted for mandatory E-Verify were nearly all from the moderate wing of the Party.
So, it was not surprising to see Al Franken in his first voting in the Senate to follow the illiberal path of his fellow liberals. But it was sad.
I am hoping that those of you who are Democrats, and particularly liberal Democrats, will work very hard to try to break through with this freshman Senator and help him to consider reconsidering what he thinks he knows about immigration.
Strangely this month, it is not Republican pals of Big Business who are standing against the little guy drawing the pay check (or sitting at home with his pink slip). No, the enemy of the working man and woman (and the jobless man and woman) this month is primarily liberal Democrats who have lost their ideological way and lost track of how their principles operate.
Our hope for helping millions of unemployed Americans is chiefly in persuading 3 of the government's top liberals -- Pelosi, Obama and Reid -- that the case AGAINST immigration can indeed be seen as a liberal case FOR America's most vulnerable citizens.
Please do all you can to advance our petition campaign to Pelosi, Obama and Reid. Sign the petition. Watch my short video for further instructions.
Interestingly, Franken's Democratic colleague in Minnesota, freshman Sen. Amy Klobuchar, voted with us and for E-Verify and unemployed Americans (and she did so back in February, too).
Maybe Klobuchar didn't have enough time with Franken in the waiting room. I certainly didn't.
ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Jul 14th 2009 @ 9:18pm EDT