The American Immigration Forums

conrad-lee

BY CONRAD LEE,  CITY COUNCIL MEMBER OF BELLEVUE

America is a nation of immigrants. We have the most open and enlightened immigration policies in the world. Immigration affects our national security, shapes our social fabric and impacts our economy. Few topics and issues are more consequential – and few have been more controversial and resistant to resolution. As the country and demographics have evolved, immigration policies have not kept pace. Immigration, especially recent mass migration, has long-lasting impacts. The country’s fabric and character are changed. Changes in social, economic and political needs warrant reformed immigration policies to meet the new needs. Immigration reform has been on the burner for decades. Nothing but emotional controversies and band-aid fixes has been the result. Congress has not been able to come to grips with this new reality and reform the immigration policy.

Two things need to occur to make real progress. One is to change the dialogue from one focusing solely on irreconcilable differences between legal and illegal immigrants, tearing the country emotionally apart, to focusing on the fact that immigrants are part and parcel of our very own communities, our neighbors with their warts and strengths working together to build our homes and communities. The other is to design an architecture that can guide the formation of a comprehensive immigration policy. Such an architecture begins with trying to understand the landscape, proceed to define purpose and priorities and establish clear goals.

AIForums is an attempt to begin such a dialogue, to understand what immigrants are and what Americans think about immigration and immigrants. Are they our neighbors in our communities who live and work alongside one another or are they aliens who are liabilities that are burdens we have to carry?

We do this by creating dialogue with immigrants and others who wants to enter into the conversation. We provide forums in our community for people to share their stories, listen, learn and inform others about us as immigrants and about issues that affect us as immigrants as well as members of the community. By sharing, informing, listening and learning, we hope to gather information to provide to our policy-makers to make good policies, in this case immigration policies on immigration reform. Sound public policies are made with robust community input and participation. The American Immigration Forum is designed to do that. By duplicating nationally, this process will provide broader participation and input.

At local level, because the issue of immigration is close and personal to immigrants, this process will engage our new residents and immigrant population to be involved and provide more information about them to be better served for their benefit as well as for the benefit of the larger community. In conclusion, if we engage our immigrant population, know them and their issues better, we will serve our community better and perhaps resolve the bigger issue of immigration.