FRYING EGGS ON THE OVERHEATED IMMIGRATION RHETORIC

    Posted by Maren Showkeir

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    We live in Arizona, and unless you have been vacationing in another galaxy, you know the debate about the  new law designed to crack down on illegal immigration  is so hot you could fry an egg on it! People are reluctant to talk to people they don't know on the topic because it's more incendiary than an August day in Phoenix. 
     
    This issue touches everyone, whether you live in the U.S. or somewhere else. My husband, Jamie, and I recently saw a documentary called  "9500 Liberty"  that tells the story of Prince William County, which passed a law similar to Arizona's a few years ago. What struck me hard as I watched was how unable (or unwilling) the people involved in the real-life drama were to manage conversations about immigration, culture, and their changing community. They did everything to emphasize their differences instead of finding common ground. 

    This seems to be typical of the discourse. We don't see much evidence that people want to start with the commonalities. Instead, we see attempts to convince others they are wrong — without acknowledging the complexities inherent in the issues. We see people trying to demonizing the other side without recognition that most people want the same things — to be respected, take care of their families, and to contribute to a community.

    So I want to try a new conversation here. I came up with three things I think most people have in common on the issue of immigration:

    • Except for Native Americans, we all have immigrant roots
    • Our current immigration policy and laws are broken and need to be fixed
    • People want to feel safe and secure and able to take care of themselves and their families, no matter where they live

    What do YOU think people have in common on this issue? And what would it take for us to begin having conversations that move us forward instead of keeping us stuck? 

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    Replies

    Jeevan Sivasubramaniam
    Jeevan Sivasubramaniam
    October 29, 2014

    What an excellent way to launch this discussion! As an immigrant myself, this whole debate has been interesting for me to watch and follow. I think your assertion of needing to look at commonalities is a good one. One commonality that I saw between those who supported this legislation and those who resisted it was that they both felt that illegal immigration is a problem and that the federal government wasn't doing enough. Some defended the legislation as something that "needed to be done to send Washington a message!" which I think may be a bit extreme.

    As for other commonalities -- I definitely agree with the assertion that we are a nation of immigrants, but I find myself in debate with others about the nature of the manner of immigration. Supporters of the legislation do not argue the point about all of us being immigrants, but they do argue the manner in which such immigration occurs. The commonalities are challenged by the smaller but still important details that pit history against legality. I think that conservatives may have a point when they say that legality trumps history (though I'm still trying to decide). I do have conservative friends (yes, there are some that are good people that I just don't agree with in some areas), and one of them raised an interesting argument about how legality (how many conservatives see the debate) trumps history (how many progressives see the debate):

    He said historically it was once acceptable to kill Black people and exclude Chinese from society. Now, it was legally acceptable, too, but that changed and now it is against the law. History is not a precedent nor justification for anything because history does not change. The law, however, recognizes that things change and changes along with them. If we go back in history, we can justify anything including rape, murder, brutality, etc., so the only point of reference should be law.

    A bit absolute and convenient way of arguing it, but what do others think?

    marenshowkeir
    Maren Showkeir
    October 29, 2014

    Well, your friend and I have something in common: I believe in a nation of laws, and I believe in following the law.

    Most of the criticism around the Arizona law centers on the fact it can't be enforced without racial profiling, and many of the targets will be legal immigrants who will have to carry papers when people who look like me won't have to worry. And of course in this country, a law that violates someone's constitutional rights is supposed to get overturned. That can be a lengthy process.

    I am curious whether people see any lines to be drawn when laws are unjust, immoral or promote inequality? (Apartheid springs to mind, or segregation.)

    marenshowkeir
    Maren Showkeir
    October 29, 2014

    Ha! Thank you Jeevan. I posted something very similar on my facebook page yesterday!

    Had an interesting conversation with my hairdresser today, who agreed that she was tired of the divisive rhetoric and said she avoided the topic at all costs unless she already knew how people felt about the issue. This kind of silence, while understandable, only keeps us stuck. It would be so cool if we could find more ways to host large-group conversations that both teach and model ways to have conversations about these inflammatory topics.