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We Americans just never face some big issues—not really—right?

Millions of Americans lacking adequate healthcare, hundreds of thousands living houseless on our streets, millions of undocumented immigrants living in the shadows. Year after year, decade after decade, we kick these cans down the road. Lots of earnest talk. Wonderful solutions proposed. Bills by the boatload debated in legislatures and Congress. But precious little actual progress.

Which motivated us to talk with Peter Laufer—an LA Progressive columnist who’s a veteran reporter and current James Wallace Chair Professor Journalism at the University of Oregon.

Peter has dug deep into the causes of our chronic immigration issues, using his on-the-ground reporting along our southern border to publish his latest book, Up Against the Wall, which offers the radical proposal of treating our Mexican neighbors with the same welcoming openness we afford our Canadian neighbors.

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As Peter explains in our 20-minute discussion, he was drawn to this topic because he’s a first-generation American himself, commenting that his Hungarian father maintained he had earned his own place in America by jumping through all the hoops needed to become a citizen, while Peter just had to be born here.

Building on his career as a globe-trotting correspondent for NBC News, Peter has published books on such varied topics as Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq, Calexico: True Lives of the Borderlands, Forbidden Creatures: Inside the World of Animal Smuggling and Exotic Pets, and Wireless Etiquette: A Guide to the Changing World of Instant Communication.

When Peter visited us earlier this summer, he was here to doing research to update Nevada Neon, a book he wrote with his wife about the gorgeous neon signs that long signified Las Vegas—and really all of Nevada—which will be published this time next year.

Peter has also written our “Queries” tongue-in-check advice column that we’re hoping he’ll be able to revive in the future.

peter laufer banner 2004