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Debunking the Boughton defense

Cross post from HatCityBLOG

Attorney Peter Goselin wrote a beautiful piece that debunks comments of Mark Boughton and those who defended his invitation to last week’s immigration forum at UConn.

There are two false assumptions that are being circulated as part of a “defense” of Boughton being invited to speak at the symposium. Sadly, neither are getting the rebuttal they deserve from the law school, its faculty, or the symposium organizers.

False assumption #1: For the LLSA to demand that Boughton be uninvited was an assault on free speech.

Explanation: Our right to express our opinions under the First Amendment – what we usually mean when we talk about the right to free speech – is the right to be free from government action based on that speech. In this case, the event to which Boughton had been invited was a symposium sponsored by a student-run organization, the Public Interest Law Journal. The challenge to Boughton came from another student-run organization, the Latino Law Students Association. Neither is a government institution, Neither speaks for or acts on behalf of the UConn Law School. Therefore, neither could harm Boughton’s (or anybody else’s) right to free speech. There simply is no First Amendment issue here.

False Assumption #2: Having Boughton on the morning panel would have given it “balance.”

Explanation: The symposium was not a debate and was not organized in a manner that would have permitted debate. The morning panel to which Boughton had originally been invited consisted of a facilitator and four panelists, each of whom spoke on their own work (both academic and practical) on the issue of the workplace rights of undocumented workers for about fifteen minutes each and then answered questions. The common starting point was the existence of a body of federal law that clearly and unequivocally guarantees certain rights to every worker without regard to their citizenship or immigration status. This is a body of law that has developed over a period of some 75 years, since the passage of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (requiring employers to pay a minimum wage and overtime) and the National Labor Relations Act (giving employees the right to form a union or act collectively in their own interests). Simply put: Boughton has no knowledge or expertise on any topic relating to these rights and their enforcement. The notion that he would have provided “balance” to this discussion is based in the false dichotomy of all things relating to immigration as either “pro-immigrant” or “anti-immigrant.” Is Boughton’s view of immigrants a commonly held opinion? Yes. Does it bear any relationship to the topic under discussion? No. Is Boughton’s viewpoint part of the dialogue that is going on in academic and policy circles on the topic of the enforcement of workplace rights of undocumented immigrants? No. His presence would have been a distraction from the real topic and would have conferred on his perspective a credibility that it simply does not have.