Civility needed in immigration discussion

If you can get beyond the rhetoric and the vitriol, we believe you’ll find that most people, whether they’re U.S. citizens or immigrants, both documented and undocumented, believe there is a way to come together to promote legal immigration efforts and establishing a viable pathway to citizenship.

That’s the idea behind an upcoming event next Saturday at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake – the #UniteIowa on Immigration forum – a nonpartisan conversation about immigration in Iowa.

The forum, hosted by the Des Moines Register’s Kyle Munson, is designed for presidential candidates, community and political leaders and Iowans of all backgrounds, to share ideas and to start talking in a civil way to craft ways where we can come together to find common ground on this most important issue.

In Marshalltown, our diverse population has grown, and it’s critical that we find ways where we can work together, bridging cultural divides and creating ways to help those new to this country assimiliate and discover their own pathway to “The American Dream.”

Iowa, of course, is a great place for this conversation given the increased attention the state receives because of the role Iowa has in choosing our next president.

But immigration discussions are often heated, sometimes hate-filled, in part because of the passion behind multiple points of view.

This forum will not solve the immigration issue, but could provide a framework in which we operate – a way to find common-sense solutions without caving into fear-mongering and misinformation.

In a recent letter to members of the Not In Our Town Committee, Marshalltown Police Chief shared this thoughts on this most important issue:

” … Regardless of how you feel personally about the immigration crisis facing our country, I hope we can agree these issues should be discussed in a transparent and civil manner. Marshalltown is a microcosm of the problems facing our country. We understand the challenges and pitfalls of the immigration reform debate. We also empathize with our immigrant friends and neighbors who want to come out from the shadows and be fully engaged in their community. As a nation we must at some point address these issues directly.

“Forums and discussions such as the one being planned for Aug. 29, allow us to ensure the voices of Iowans are heard. A recent poll showed that 77 percent of Iowans support an immigration reform plan that offers some kind of pathway to citizenship. This forum is not intended to push any particular agenda. This forum is merely intended to be a conversation starter which will hopefully lead to action and resolution of the problems related to immigration reform. Immigration reform will be an important topic for 2016 presidential hopefuls.”

Tupper’s not alone in his views. Immigration reform and those who are impacted by what happens with those policies cannot remain in the shadows if they are to be a productive members of our collective society.

In another letter to NIOT members, recent Marshalltown High School graduate Cecilia Martinez, wrote eloquently of her desire to live her life out of the shadows:

“My name is Cecilia Martinez and I am a graduated senior from Marshalltown High School and past NIOT member. I found a lot of comfort in being a part of the NIOT group. It was a safe place where I could open up and have an opportunity to help others. One thing that I finally felt comfortable speaking about through being a part of that group was my legal status. I am undocumented.

“I was born in Mexico and immigrated to Iowa with my family when I was only six months old. Being undocumented has influenced every single part of my life. When I hear politicians or anyone speak out and state their views on immigration it will always be personal. I have heard some very hateful things come from people since I was young. Discrimination is just another form of harassment.

“Groups like Immigrant Allies and DREAM Iowa are there to stand up for undocumented people just like NIOT is always there for those who experience bullying or harassment. Both groups seek to change legislation and laws in order to help others and make Iowa an accepting place. NIOT can only benefit from supporting organizations and events such as the immigration forum at BVU.”

The immigration issue, indeed, is personal for Cecilia, but it’s also a clarion call for everyone in Marshalltown and across the state and nation – we have to work together if we are going to truly be a UNITED States of America that believes in fairness and opportunity for all of those who seek a better way of life.

Working together in a civil manner can make that happen.