We can’t lead from fear, especially on an issue like immigration. Yet that’s exactly what is happening. Immigration policies have been framed as an either-or choice to drive a wedge between Americans and to raise concern about the future. Republican leadership wants voters to believe that immigration is an economic and cultural burden on the country. Given this view, it’s no wonder that today’s GOP starts the discussion of immigration with stronger border security and deportation without regard to what is in the best interests of the county, of our communities and of the people involved.

For their part, Democratic leadership seems to base their policies on nostalgia for a time when those coming to this country could find an unskilled but well-paying job. Immigrants could share a community and take years – sometimes generations – to assimilate into mainstream culture in previous times. More rapid assimilation is necessary now but is not always easy. This does not mean we should say no to all immigrants. 

Our borders? Of course we need secure borders. This is critical for stopping illegal immigration and for many other reasons, including protection from terrorists.

Most Minnesotans reject the either-or approach. This issue is a prime example in reaching agreement on policy where we cannot let “perfect” become the enemy of “good.” Let’s make some reasonable steps to reduce fear on all sides and reaffirm a cornerstone of the American creed which emphasizes the unity of the human family. We can do this at the same time we improve our security. America’s security is never up for negotiation. 

Some suggested approaches:

  • Strong border security that incorporates state-of-the-art technology, not a wall – unless a wall is the best technology.
  • Reasonable visa programs that welcome a future generation of college students, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and others who are able to be part of growing the US economy. This makes the tide rise which lifts all boats. We cannot think of this as “them versus us.” The voices in America that speak loudest about this issue are the business people who know we need these reasonable policies to help our economy.
  • Both parties were close to agreement on a plan to let Dreamers stay in the US which would have reduced so many families living in fear. Also, it would have assured these Dreamers, most of whom are law abiding community members, would keep contributing to our economy.  However, the deal fell apart when the two parties could not control their “egos” and the two parties could not come to an agreement. If there were more independent senators the issue would have been solved. Independent senators would not approach the problem worried about whether one party or the other gains.