To this astonished blogger, Lou Dobbs’ profession of love for immigrants came as a welcome surprise. Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN (March 3, 2005).

In a debate on New York driver’s licenses for the undocumented with Cesar Perales of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Lou repeatedly declared his heartfelt affection for migrants and seemed offended and surprised that anyone could ever suspect that he might harbor anti-immigrant sentiments. While besmitten with amore for immigrants, Lou allowed, however, that he brooked no sympathy for illegal immigration and insisted that he, as all of us should, will cherish forever the rights, privileges and duties of American citizenship.

Whether Lou’s love is newfound or longstanding, I’ll take the man who nightly bewails our “Broken Borders” at his word. A love for immigrants presupposes that Lou would support laws that treat immigrants fairly, humanely, and with due process. A lover of immigrants like Lou would also, one imagines, denounce the failures of the government agencies charged with deciding whether to confer benefits like work permits, visas and green cards that the immigration laws allow in a reasonably prompt and even-handed manner. Lou, the fancier of immigrants, should also conceivably espouse fair-minded reforms of our immigration system to make it more transparent, more reflective of our tradition as a nation of immigrants, more supportive of our values of family unity, and more of an engine of economic prosperity that could support the needs of an aging American populace. Well, Lou, here are a few ways to show your love:

• Support a change in the law that presumes all visitors and temporary entrants to this country want to stay here forever unless the visa applicant proves otherwise. This law treats all visa applicants as untruthful and guilty until and unless they establish their innocence and sincerity to the satisfaction of a U.S. consular officer (whose decision is final and unreviewable). The law – known as Section 214(b) – allows consular officers to behave in an arbitrary way, and rekindles the image of “the Ugly American” at a time when the President and his administration are trying to make friends and build coalitions abroad. A change in 214(b) would not presage an open-door policy. Legal standards for admission to the country would still exist. But the people of other lands would begin again to see America as a friendly place that welcomes deserving people to our country and treats all applicants fairly and compassionately, under a system of rules that prevent arbitrary denials based on bureaucratic whim, fancy or prejudice.

• Support laws that hold immigration bureaucrats accountable. Require them to publish all past-due immigration regulations within six months. Require them to issue decisions within a reasonable time. In other words, a short-term benefit should be decided quickly; a long term benefit like a green card should take no more than six months. This has been the “Sense of Congress” and the mission of both the Clinton and Bush Administrations – but the delays and backlogs are still as far as the eye can see and much greater than reasonable patience can tolerate.

• Use your bully pulpit to expand the debate beyond illegal immigration and driver’s licenses. Focus more on what a sound legal immigration policy should look like. How can we grow this nation’s prosperity? How can we maintain and improve the standard of living of American citizens while still benefiting from the innovations and energy of immigrants who have had the gumption to leave family, hearth and home, and come to America, the land of opportunity, brimming with new ideas, energy and passion to make a better life.

Lou, I can hear you now, just as you said on the same March 3 show: “The violins are starting to move so high.” Yes, these violins can stir the passions of lovers – Amorati of the American dream. Or, they can be dismissed as so much schmaltz. I’ve listened to you often, almost nightly, and I believe in the intensity and sincerity of your patriotism. Patriotism for America can, as you suggest, include a love of immigrants.

Go for it Lou! Show us all the way!