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Why Obama, Part I: Immigration

January 23, 2008

Update: Subsequent installments to the “Why Obama” series can be found in the comments section of this thread, in the form of pingbacks. 

When I announced that the Chamber would be endorsing Senator Barack Obama for president in ’08, I promised to expand on that rationale in posts that would follow.  So, here I go. 

I’ve decided to stick with a format for these posts, where I will pull (in no particular order) one of Obama’s stances on an issue right off his website, add a few thoughts of my own as to why I support the position, and open it up to debate and discussion.  I believe that this format will allow for a sense of consistency and at the same time provide a forum for the issue to be analyzed, picked apart, attacked, and defended.  And even though I have endorsed Sen. Obama, remember that I am unafraid to challenge, defend, or concede any point.  Also, I hereby promise to strive for intellectual honesty and stay true to my personal beliefs, and I am willing to reconsider any given position based on the presentation of a convincing argument or facts that I was previously unaware of.  In short, this is where I test myself, so I encourage others to chime in. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind.

Obama on Immigration (pdf)

The Problem

Undocumented population is exploding: The number of undocumented immigrants in the country has increased more than 40 percent since 2000. Every year, more than a half-million people come illegally or illegally overstay their visas.obama08_thumblogo100.gif

Immigration bureaucracy is broken: The immigration bureaucracy is broken and overwhelmed, forcing legal immigrants to wait years for applications.

Immigration raids are ineffective: Despite a sevenfold increase in recent years, immigration raids only netted 3,600 arrests in 2006 and have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families.

Barack Obama’s Plan

Create Secure Borders

Obama wants to preserve the integrity of our borders. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.

Improve Our Immigration System

Obama believes we must fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.

Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally

Obama will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.

Bring People Out of the Shadows

Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.

Work with Mexico

Obama believes we need to do more to promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration.

Barack Obama’s Record

  • Crack Down on Employers: Obama championed a proposal to create a system so employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Fix the Bureaucracy: Obama joined Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to introduce the Citizenship Promotion Act to ensure that immigration application fees are both reasonable and fair. Obama also introduced legislation that passed the Senate to improve the speed and accuracy of FBI background checks.
  • Respect Families: Obama introduced amendments to put greater emphasis on keeping immigrant families together.

I consider myself to have a relatively uncompassionate view on this topic.  In fact, in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve considered myself to be sympathetic to the stated mission of the Minutemen, in the sense that a community would support the actions of a neighborhood watch group.  We have laws, but the methods of enforcement appears to have taken a turn toward a status of “woefully inadequate”.  I have no problem abiding the laws of the land on a daily basis, and I would expect the same from anyone who enters this country.  I see our porous borders as a significant security risk as well.  In short, I’m definitely not in the “open borders” crowd.

That said, I don’t believe that a impenetrable wall or fence is the answer.  It seems so 5th century BC, after all.  That, and I’m a big fan of the critters.  Also, the idea of mass deportations and taking babies out of the hands of their mothers strikes me as inhumane (or in the very least, a punishment that probably doesn’t fit the crime).

So, an answer would seem to lie in bolstering the ability to enforce the law by increasing the number of border agents, taking advantage of 21st century technology (in the form of both border surveillance and identification) and target the enablers (those who knowingly hire illegals).  And a path towards citizenship should be offered to those who work hard and otherwise respect our laws, even if the details need to be ironed out.

It’s a difficult issue, characterized by significant scale and far-reaching implicatons and effects, and it’s doubtful that any given solution will go perfectly, but I’d consider Obama’s approach to be very rational.

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41 comments

  1. I hope you make more posts like this, a lot of people aren’t aware of Obama’s policy positions.

    The basic principle of a two-pronged approach is sound – more flexible immigration laws combined with more consistent border security. But I still don’t agree with the notion that this is a rule of law issue. It’s not about enforcing the law. The relevant point of debate is how much immigration does the US allow? The Washington Post had a great article on how silly it is for the current distinction made in the debate by anti-immigration activists, that they are only opposed to “illegal” immigrants. A complete red herring. And studies have shown that there is little security risk from immigration. One example:

    http://econweb.rutgers.edu/apiehl/butcher_piehl.feb06.pdf


  2. CZ a good format for the purpose of the post.I have to say though there should never be any confusion (accidental or intentional) that there is a major difference between legal immigration and it’s issues and illegal immigration and it’s very real issues.


  3. This post from Obama’s website is meaningless and worthless. Sorry Chen. His posts reads like the typical lib meme: I believe in defending our country, or I am for our military, or my favorite lib hymn “I’m for strong public education!” You mean to tell me there’s some American citizen out there who isn’t?

    There is absolutely no detail, no plan for facilitation, no call for action, no detail of who, what and how, no proposal for funding…

    For example, Obama wants more border security – forgetting for the moment that has already been partially implemented this year, I have some questions:

    (1) How does Obama propose we pay for additional security?

    (2) How much border security? Armed or unarmed? What are the rules and who does the training?

    (3) What does Obama propose to do with those caught crossing the border illegally? What are his thoughts on the current sanctuary cities?

    And somewhat on topic…

    (4) How does Obama propose we pay for the social cost that currently borne by U.S.citizens – Medicaid, etc…?

    (5) Emphasis on English language or mandatory bilingual education?

    (6) Who is responsible for determining resident status…landlord, gov’t, employer?

    (7) How many new citizens and who? First come, first serve? Amnesty? Guest worker?

    And those are just the easy questions. Again, not meaning to make fun of your candidate but this is fluff (cotton candy lite).

    It’s a difficult issue, characterized by significant scale and far-reaching implicatons and effects, and it’s doubtful that any given solution will go perfectly, but I’d consider Obama’s approach to be very rational. ~Chen

    How does Obama’s proposal differ from say John McCain?


  4. testing…forgot to do this!


  5. Chen,

    With my new gravatar, I feel like one of the family.


  6. (1) How does Obama propose we pay for additional security?

    “Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine.”

    I imagine that would help a little…lol

    (2) How much border security? Armed or unarmed? What are the rules and who does the training?

    I imagine, not sure, but the NATIONAL GUARD could probably do it.

    (3) What does Obama propose to do with those caught crossing the border illegally? What are his thoughts on the current sanctuary cities?

    I imagine again he would turn them back. No use keeping them here just to send them back.

    (4) How does Obama propose we pay for the social cost that currently borne by U.S.citizens – Medicaid, etc…?

    Good question. Maybe Chen will do a piece on that later.

    (5) Emphasis on English language or mandatory bilingual education?

    Who cares?

    (6) Who is responsible for determining resident status…landlord, gov’t, employer?

    I would guess the gov. They set the rules regarding resident status.

    (7) How many new citizens and who? First come, first serve? Amnesty? Guest worker?

    Doesn’t look like he supports Bush’s guest worker plan. He said he would send them to the back of the line. Assuming he can fix the buricratical mess which is the immigration department, it would be sped up and cleaned up…

    You are right about this just being empty rhetoric. Of course, it’s the same with every single candidate… except Ron Paul it seems…


  7. King-

    The relevant point of debate is how much immigration does the US allow?

    It’s a good question and worthy of debate as long as we’re talking about legal immigration, since that’s the valve that we currently have some control of. in2thefray’s right; it is important to make the distinction, and the focus for this thread was illegal immigration. I know you live in Australia, but here in America there are significant social, economic and cultural implications that go along with having literally millions of people here that have no official status or rights. This isn’t about xenophobia (at least, not for me).

    sliquid said:

    You are right about this just being empty rhetoric. Of course, it’s the same with every single candidate…

    Yea I think that Tex is going to be disappointed. I’m not sure that any of the candidates really outline much detail. I looked at is as less of a “plan” and more of a set of criteria that a bill(s) would have to meet in order for Obama (as president) to sign it.

    Anyway, I’m at work right now, so I’ll try to address more of this stuff later.


  8. It’s too bad that the Democrat Party will nominate Hillary Stalin Clinton instead of Obama. But then, nobody has ever accused the Lefties of being the sharpest tools in the shed.


  9. (5) Emphasis on English language or mandatory bilingual education?

    Who cares?

    You’re kidding right? I read some magazine the other day in a doctor’s office that stated (who knows anymore) that the cost of bilingual education costs U.S. citizen’s approximately $50B. Remember, a billion here, billion there, it begins to add to real money.

    You’re right about the whole website being empty rhetoric. But come on, we can all agree on something. Aren’t you guys for a ‘strong public educational system.’ My favorite lefty mantra and straight out of the Hillary Clinton playbook…I’ll bet even Paulians could get a kick out of that absurdity.

    And Chen, I’m not so naive to believe any of the other websites any better either – it’s the American political way; empty rhetoric while their empty hand is stealing your wallet.


  10. “It’s a good question and worthy of debate as long as we’re talking about legal immigration, since that’s the valve that we currently have some control of. in2thefray’s right; it is important to make the distinction, and the focus for this thread was illegal immigration. I know you live in Australia, but here in America there are significant social, economic and cultural implications that go along with having literally millions of people here that have no official status or rights. This isn’t about xenophobia (at least, not for me).”

    Don’t be fooled into thinking that those implications only apply to America. Countries in Europe and my own country are facing the same problems. But again, the distinction here is irrelevant. Legal immigrants drive down wages almost as much as illegal immigrants. I say almost because illegals are hired with a risk premium. Legal immigrants have the same impact on culture and communities that illegal immigrants have. If you are only opposed to “illegal immigrants” then the simple solution is to propose amnesty and then throw the borders wide open. Everyone’s legal, problem solved. I doubt that’s a solution any of these, yes, anti-IMMIGRANT activists would support.


  11. King- You’d still have the need to adhere to a process of documenting everyone, which would mean that you’d still have to control the borders and have some sort of path to registering as a citizen.


  12. Sure, but I don’t see how that justifies the distinction between illegal and legal immigrants in this debate. That distinction just isn’t relevant. It masks the true intentions of what the anti-immigrant crowd is trying to accompolish. And you don’t hear it in other countries, where people are honest about wanting to limit the number of immigrants who enter their borders. They don’t cloak themselves in proclamations about trying to enforce the law.


  13. King-

    And you don’t hear it in other countries, where people are honest about wanting to limit the number of immigrants who enter their borders. They don’t cloak themselves in proclamations about trying to enforce the law.

    I don’t understand the accusations of “cloaking”. There are reasons why the laws are what they are, and one of the really good ones is the tremendous complications that come with having millions of undocumented people that reside in the country who don’t pay taxes, skirt minimum wage laws, and funnel whatever money they make back to their home country (etc.), while at the same time they still get sick and use hospitals like anyone else, drive on roads, dispose of trash, etc.

    It’s hard to start debating about how many immigrants you let in when you can’t seem to control it anyway, and have little idea how many are really getting in, what they’re doing, or even who the hell they are.

    For the legal ones who have gone through the process and are documented, you do know. That’s why the distinction is relevant and why the need to get some control over it is important.


  14. “You’re kidding right? I read some magazine the other day in a doctor’s office that stated (who knows anymore) that the cost of bilingual education costs U.S. citizen’s approximately $50B. Remember, a billion here, billion there, it begins to add to real money.”

    And you honestly think that teaching English only will be that much cheaper? Education costs money no matter what. And I call shenanagans on that total cost. Back it up with something.

    ” But come on, we can all agree on something. Aren’t you guys for a ’strong public educational system.’ My favorite lefty mantra and straight out of the Hillary Clinton playbook…I’ll bet even Paulians could get a kick out of that absurdity.”

    So now kids learning and understanding more than one language equals a weak education system? There are plenty of studies out there that say bilingual education is better than English only, and there are studies going the other way as well. Personally, I feel someone is probably more intelligent if they know more than one language…but that’s just me.

    Maybe they spend upwards of “50 billion” on these studies.

    Don’t get it twisted. You’re more interested in assimilation than anything. That’s your real argument. I can understand that, but i don’tthink it’s as big a problem as you would make it seem.

    The real solution to this whole issue is to help bring Mexico’s economy up to our level. We want them to want to stay there because they can prosper there. I know it shouldn’t be our responsibility, but as the good people we claim to be, we should be able to help.


  15. Chen, you may be suprised by how much revenue is actually generated by these illegals in many towns across the U.S. They may send some money back to Mexico, but they still have to pay to eat, sleep, and drink here…

    Just think about how bad Budweiser would be doing if they weren’t here…lol


  16. Coming off thread but if CZ shall allow may I jump into the fray ? @Sliquid. Much like those that deliberately confuse the difference between illegal and legal immigration you’ve entered the bilingual ed scam. Bilingual ed is a failure and a misnomer.The Latino community itself has waged some good fights against this false enabler of the American Ed system. It is in fact a disabler. Teaching any number of languages to all students is indeed a hallmark of a quality education hence it lacking in the US arena.Bilingual ed is rarely t the benefit of any other demographic and there lays its claim to shame. The isolated incidents of US schools actually importing curriculum from Mexico is another sign of failure at best and surrender at worse.
    As for the Mexican economy and our helping it. The only or at least quickest solution would be to invade and eliminate the Mexican government. The corruption riddled entity is at the helm of what should be a leading economy (oil,raw materials,tourism,industry) yet people are suffering. What up with that ?


  17. Yes, the American way…when in doubt, invade.

    meh.


  18. Sliquid that wasn’t serious advocacy it was about pointing something out.The something being the ills of Mexico reside within it’s borders not ours.Nice analysis of the comment though meh


  19. Sliquid,

    The real solution to this whole issue is to help bring Mexico’s economy up to our level. We want them to want to stay there because they can prosper there. I know it shouldn’t be our responsibility, but as the good people we claim to be, we should be able to help.

    That may be a solution but it isn’t feasible and we aren’t responsible for Mexico. And that certainly isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m really not as cold as many lib Americans and certainly not some of the draconian Repubs. Most “illegals” I’ve met are nice, very hard working, family oriented folk. But yes, I want them to do their part in assimilating. They must learn our language, adult and children alike, carrying insurance like the rest of us, pay taxes like the rest of us, just as immigrants did during the Industrial Revolution. And many of them are going to struggle for a time – no free ride.

    But I’ve forewarned my neighbors all those roofs, all those construction jobs, all that foundary and cement work – you better be careful about booting illegals across the border. It’s been my experience the quality and care of their work far exceeds anything most of our citizens accomplish. And they will do it with a smile and a handshake for $10.00 an hour – guaranteed to be there too.

    First, we need to shut down the crossings so we can get a handle on who is here. Some of the perks and bennies like free health care at the emergency room used as primary care need to be stopped immediately. Then, we need to streamline the process for citizenship. Surely as a country, we can come up with some number of new citizens that we can potentially add to our workforce, school districts, etc. without appreciably affecting the economy and our quality of education.

    Personally, I welcome most Mexicans because I find them to be of a higher quality than many Americans I meet. We can’t take 12MM at once. But we might be able to handle one million a year over 12 years with those on the waiting list getting first choice. Set up something like Ellis Island down on the Southern Border, fund it, and get to work getting them acclimated to our laws, ways, etc…

    Then let them pursue happiness like the rest of us.


  20. Tex-

    First, we need to shut down the crossings so we can get a handle on who is here. Some of the perks and bennies like free health care at the emergency room used as primary care need to be stopped immediately. Then, we need to streamline the process for citizenship. Surely as a country, we can come up with some number of new citizens that we can potentially add to our workforce, school districts, etc. without appreciably affecting the economy and our quality of education.

    Ya know….oh nevermind. 🙂


  21. Ya know….oh nevermind.

    Let me guess. You think this is Obama’s plan or Obama parroted mine. Not really – I provided more detail in one post than Obama did on his entire website and mine was still full of “cliches.” 😦


  22. Tex- Well, sorta. I was going to say that I think we’re on the same page for the most part. Weird huh? And I don’t think helping Mexico is really that feasible either (at least to the point of making a real difference). I’ll admit that Obama’s “work with Mexico” bit is probably the fluffiest part.

    BTW- I dunno if anyone has clicked the link to the pdf file up there, but it does offer more detail on Obama’s postition.


  23. Tex,

    It’s refreshing to hear someone speak openly about the subject who actually doesn’t just hate mexicans. I find that’s usually the driving factor behind border control arguments. Usually illegal immigrants are dehumanized to the point of being nothing but roaches infesting the U.S., and it’s actually kind of nice to hear from someone who see’s them as good people. Go you! lol

    Anyway, like I said, it’s not our responsibility, but it is our business. And unlike any other nation building we are currently pursuing, this one hits a lot closer to home, and means a lot more to us than just securing oil across seas.

    The only reason why we can’t do it, or won’t do it, is because people are too afraid to step outside their box and think about it differently. People feel emotionally about this issue and anything less than what they want is just trashed immediately without any extra thought put into it.

    Trying to “close the border” is a futile attempt to stop this problem. They will dig, fly, or float around it… It’s simply a band-aid. You will never stop illegal immigration into the U.S. as long as Mexico is in the economic state it is in. Would a North American Union help that out? Who knows, everyone hears that term and freaks out before understanding how it could be implemented. But I know there has to be a better answer than, just build a wall of fence. That will not stop anything.

    I know this is a big issue. It’s bigger than what one person on-line can solve. It’s a deep issue and one that many people truely don’t understand. My wife is currently taking immigration law, and it’s amazing how the laws actually work. Things like, it’s not actually illegal to be in the U.S. while being undocumented, what’s illegal is actually the act of crossing the border. So after you are in, you have broken a law, but are not actually breaking any laws. It’s wierd. But as long as our system is as messed up as it is, and their country is as messed up as it is, this will always be an issue.


  24. They must learn our language, adult and children alike, carrying insurance like the rest of us, pay taxes like the rest of us, just as immigrants did during the Industrial Revolution. And many of them are going to struggle for a time – no free ride.


  25. “I don’t understand the accusations of “cloaking”. There are reasons why the laws are what they are, and one of the really good ones is the tremendous complications that come with having millions of undocumented people that reside in the country who don’t pay taxes, skirt minimum wage laws, and funnel whatever money they make back to their home country (etc.), while at the same time they still get sick and use hospitals like anyone else, drive on roads, dispose of trash, etc.”

    All of those problems can be resolved by partial legalisation. Except for remittances, which I don’t see as a “complication”.

    “It’s hard to start debating about how many immigrants you let in when you can’t seem to control it anyway, and have little idea how many are really getting in, what they’re doing, or even who the hell they are.

    For the legal ones who have gone through the process and are documented, you do know. That’s why the distinction is relevant and why the need to get some control over it is important.”

    But that very process of legalisation is what’s central to the debate. If you make that process easier and more efficient, then more immigrants can enter the country and also sign into the system. I highly doubt that the anti-immigrant activists are concerned about the immigrants not checking into the system, when they don’t even want the immigrants in the country in the first place. The whole debate is being clouded by a lot of nonsense which is one reason why I think America has been unable to adopt a comprehensive immigration reform policy.


  26. King said:

    But that very process of legalisation is what’s central to the debate. If you make that process easier and more efficient, then more immigrants can enter the country and also sign into the system.

    Well, Obama is proposing making the bureaucracy process easier and more efficient, and I’d agree with that as well.

    I highly doubt that the anti-immigrant activists are concerned about the immigrants not checking into the system, when they don’t even want the immigrants in the country in the first place. The whole debate is being clouded by a lot of nonsense which is one reason why I think America has been unable to adopt a comprehensive immigration reform policy.

    I don’t agree with that. Sure, there are xenophobes and bigots and people who are upset that there is an option for Spanish when you call the bank. Some of those people are “activists” I’m sure. But the problem is real, and it’s because of the complications I highlighted, not some irrational fear of immigrants.


  27. […] II: Homeland Security January 26, 2008 For the second installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the homeland security issue.  The same format applies; this is right […]


  28. Sorry I haven’t figured out how to use the quote functions. Those complications you listed:

    “the tremendous complications that come with having millions of undocumented people that reside in the country who don’t pay taxes, skirt minimum wage laws, and funnel whatever money they make back to their home country (etc.), while at the same time they still get sick and use hospitals like anyone else, drive on roads, dispose of trash, etc.”

    All can be resolved by partial legalisation reforms. A temporary guest worker program is an example, something that was vigourously opposed by the anti-immigration people.


  29. King-

    re: quoting material. It sucks that these comment forms don’t have html shortcut buttons, but this is how you do it. This:

    <blockquote>portion of text you want to quote</blockquote>

    creates this:

    portion of text you want to quote

    Anyway, there are lots of different ideas floating around about what to do about the issue, and guest workers is a component that comes up quite often. I don’t think that it’s universally opposed by “anti-immigration people” (the definition of which is getting more ambiguous by the post). And, again, having something like a guest worker program and the need for secure borders are not (and need not be)mutually exclusive ideas.


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  32. Obama gave a nice pandering answer concerning illegal immigration in the debate last week.

    And, so, I think to suggest somehow that the problem that we’re seeing in inner-city unemployment, for example, is attributable to immigrants, I think, is a case of scapegoating that I do not believe in, I do not subscribe to.

    If he wants to call facts “scapegoating,” I guess that is his option. However Cesar Chavez and W.E.B DuBois had different views.

    Chavez protested against illegal labor because it hurt legal immigrants.
    http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/aug22.html

    DuBois recognized that unskilled African-Americans are who would suffer most by unskilled illegal immigrant labor. The NY Times reported:

    “…nearly twice as many blacks as whites said that they or a family member had lost a job, or not gotten a job, because an employer hired an immigrant worker. Blacks were also more likely than whites to feel that immigrants take jobs away from American citizens.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/04/us/04immig.html?ex=1304395200&en=8e3c68e6186f5353&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    I’ll remind you that W.E.B DuBois was the founder of the NAACP. Cesar Chavez founded the United Farm Workers Union. So they knew a little bit about minorities, and the damages caused to them by illegal immigrant labor.

    I’d like to see Obama go on record saying these men were “scapegoating.”

    Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.

    Since “undocumented” equals “illegal,” I’d like to know how any “undocumented” immigrant can ever be considered “in good standing.” And since they obviously care nothing for our immigration laws, who is going to guarantee they “pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line?” This idea is utter nonsense. If they cared enough about staning in line they wouldn’t be undocumented, would they?


  33. Sorry, I forgot a quote about DuBois.

    W.E.B. DuBois, a founder of the N.A.A.C.P., and other prominent black leaders worried that immigrants would displace blacks in the workplace.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/04/us/04immig.html?ex=1304395200&en=8e3c68e6186f5353&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss


  34. […] Why Obama, Part V: Ethics February 6, 2008 For the fifth installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the ethics in government issue.  The same format applies; this is right […]


  35. […] Part VI: Infrastructure February 10, 2008 For the sixth installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the issue of America’s infrastructure.  The format has been slightly […]


  36. […] Part VII: Health Care February 18, 2008 For the seventh installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the ethics in health care issue.  The same format applies; this is right […]


  37. […] each of these brave men has voiced a strong and loud stance against homosexual marriage and other Liberal agendas which are non-Biblical and immoral. If Duke is good enough for that nutcase Ron Paul (who […]


  38. […] The rightosphere really ought to make up its mind, ’cause it’s getting confusing and I’d like to get back to the issues. […]


  39. […] May 6, 2008 I know it’s been a little while since I added another installment to my “Why Obama” series, so I figured that with all the talk here in the Chamber about those obscene gas […]


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