Four years and one interregnum ago, I wrote that I didn’t believe the 2016 election was about policy or politics. Rather, “It was an election about culture, values and who we are as a country.”
Nearly every single day since January 20, 2017 has been consumed with one action or another attacking immigrants and immigration. The number of times we asked ourselves if things could get worse were only exceeded by the number of times they did.
In that November 9, 2016 note, I asked if you were “in” for the fight we would face.
And, to a person, from Forum board and staff to our funders to our allies across the political spectrum, you were most certainly “in” for the fight. Thank you.
Therefore, as we welcome a new administration that will launch an ambitious immigration agenda, with hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans taken by COVID-19, untold numbers of immigrant and refugee families decimated by the Trump administration, and millions of people out of work and hoping for better times, we begin to turn the page.
Looking ahead, it is clear we will have opportunities to advance constructive changes, be able to think about immigration policy differently, and engage conservatives who want a different approach to immigration.
But the forces against immigration are stronger and angrier than ever before. Many of them see an inclusive nation with people from different ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds is a threat to their way of life. In this way, the opponents of immigration become opponents of democracy as well.
As I wrote for The Bulwark:
After the incidents of January 6, reforming our nation’s immigration system is about America’s leadership role in the world, the strength of our democracy, and our belief in freedom and opportunity. Offering refuge to victims of persecution, while marginalizing their persecutors on the world stage, is the historic and proper role of the U.S. Creating equal and legal immigration pathways for workers and families serves the interests of the American worker and their family. Creating an opportunity for the millions of undocumented immigrants toiling in the shadows of our economy to earn citizenship sends a clear message that work is valued.
All to say, we do ourselves a disservice when we allow the issue to be reduced to Latino or Asian voters. Immigration reform is about so much more. It is an issue that Americans across the political spectrum see as core to our national identity, the essence of our democracy.
Which is why it was so heartening to see over 180 corporations, faith organizations, law enforcement officials and advocates call for bipartisan immigration reforms. And why it is so promising that President Biden’s day one immigration bill, the US Citizenship Act, sets the table for a constructive debate.
These steps offer an incredible opportunity to speak to voters who want to turn away from the Trump administration’s cruel treatment of immigrants. Inviting them into this conversation will bring reform closer to reality.
I’m in for this next phase.