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Who Should We Welcome? What Should We Do?

Scott London Mary Engal

23 pages
National Issues Forums Institute

The immigration issue affects virtually every American, directly or indirectly, often in deeply personal ways. This guide is designed to help people deliberate together about how we should approach the issue. The three options presented here reflect different ways of understanding what is at stake and force us to think about what matters most to us when we face difficult problems that involve all of us and that do not have perfect solutions.

The US government essentially shut down immigration, at least temporarily, during the coronavirus pandemic. But as our country begins to reopen, difficult questions remain:

  • Should we strictly enforce the law and deport people who are here without permission, or would deporting millions of people outweigh their crime?
  • Should we welcome more newcomers to build a more vibrant and diverse society, or does this pose too great a threat to national unity?
  • Should we accept more of the millions of refugees and asylum seekers fleeing gang violence and war, or should we avoid the risk of taking in people whose backgrounds may not have been fully checked?
  • Should our priority be to help immigrants assimilate into our distinctively American way of life and insist they learn English, or should we instead celebrate a growing mosaic of different peoples?

The concerns that underlie this issue are not confined to party affiliation, nor are they captured by labels such as “conservative” or “liberal.”

The research involved in developing the guide included interviews and conversations with Americans from all walks of life, as well as surveys of nonpartisan public-opinion research, subject-matter scans, and reviews of initial drafts by people with direct experience with the subject.

About National Issues Forum

The National Issues Forums (NIF) is a network of organizations that brings together citizens around the nation to talk about pressing social and political issues of the day. Thousands of community organizations, including schools, libraries, churches, civic groups, and others, have sponsored forums designed to give people a public voice in the affairs of their communities and their nation. For more information about NIF and for additional publications, see NIF’s website at www.nifi.org.

Author Bio

Scott London is a California-based author, researcher and consultant. He's contributed to more than a dozen books and published widely in newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. He's also authored white papers and reports on a range of important public issues, including the state of American journalism, the social responsibilities of higher education, and the political ramifications of new communications technologies. His website is www.scottlondon.net.

Mary Engel is a writer for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where she reports on global cancer, HIV vaccine and cure research and other topics. Before that, she worked for more than 20 years for newspapers in California, Alaska and New Mexico. As a reporter and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times, she covered international and national health issues such as malaria in East Africa and the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Her editorials were part of a 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times series on mismanagement, malpractice and racial injustice at a public hospital. In 2005-2006, she was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, which allowed her to take courses on global health, infectious diseases and bioethics at MIT and Harvard. She studied climate change as a science journalism fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., and at Toolik Lake Field Station in Alaska’s Brooks Range. She was a Salzburg Seminar Knight Media Fellow on multicultural healthcare in Salzburg, Austria, and a Casey Journalism Center Fellow on children and trauma.