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Immigration policy is finally at the center of the national debate. But questions linger about what policy reform will look like, the role enforcement will play, if it will include a guest worker program and so on. And now ICE has announced the release of hundreds of detainees, stirring controversy but also shedding light on who is being held for how long and for how much. So, there’s a lot to talk about. Where do we start? We have ideas.

Lead with values. “This debate is about the kind of country we want to be, how we treat people who are here, what it really means to be American.” These conversations are not centered on policy, they’re centered on our core beliefs and our value system. Persuadable audiences can hear arguments for policy reform much more clearly when we link it to these all-important values.

Talk common sense. Our current immigration laws are flawed and outdated and won’t serve us into the future. To fix them, we need a commonsense approach that takes into account our values, our economic needs, and our future. Point out that vitriol, political division, and a desire to exclude people don’t have a place in this debate.

It’s about all of us. “We all need a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring citizens.” This is an important sentence because it emphasizes that we all need this – our flawed immigration policies aren’t really working for any of us outside of a few bad-actor employers. This isn’t just about immigrants’ rights, or workers, or Latinos. Fixing these laws is the right thing to do for everyone.

Tell an affirmative story. There are a lot of misguided communications, skewed arguments and outright lies about immigration in the current discourse. But research shows that too much of a focus on correcting wrong information can just reinforce it in audiences’ minds. So resist the temptation to bust all the myths out there, and just tell people what is true.

Emphasize contribution and participation. This is what most New Americans want. The debate isn’t about what our government or citizens or legal residents are giving to, allowing or requiring of another group. It’s not that transactional. Instead, we have an opportunity to fix policies that have made contribution and participation very difficult for some people, and that hurts us all.

Read also:

Immigration and Gender report
Blog: Making the Invisible Visible

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