Talking Immigration Issues Today: A Shared Narrative

We need a Commonsense Approach that Upholds Our Values and lets us Move Forward Together


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Messaging Memo
Published: 2013

A narrative is a set of broad themes and values that help to connect with persuadable audiences and build support for change. Anti-­immigrant spokespeople have a clear narrative with two main elements: law and order and the overwhelming of scarce resources. Over the years, pro-­ immigration advocates and communications experts have developed and pushed out a pro‐immigrant narrative designed to move hearts, minds, and policy. This narrative is organized around three separate, but complementary themes: a Commonsense Approach; Upholding our Nation’s Values; and Moving Us Forward Together.

Each pillar can be used to both critique new and existing bad policies and, just as important, to promote positive approaches. The narrative as a whole works to remind people that immigration is part of who we are as a nation and that we cannot allow extremists to prey on our insecurities and fears to enact policies that ultimately hurt our communities and violate our most basic values.

Upholding Our Values

A Commonsense Approach

Move Forward Together

This pillar serves a number of purposes. It inspires audiences to see beyond political rhetoric and think about the kind of country we can be. Also, we know that some persuadable audiences have concerns about new immigrants desires to become “American.” We can use this pillar to reassure them that at a values level, most of us are very much alike, while also taking the opportunity to define what “American” means in our own terms.

This pillar answers audiences’ desire to hear that we are not just pointing out what won’t work, but also have a positive vision for the country, and a way to get there. By moving from talking about “solutions” to “approaches,” we emphasize that immigration itself is not the problem, but rather flawed immigration policies. And we, as a democracy, have the power and responsibility to change those to make sure they are reasonable and fair.

This pillar emphasizes community – both local and national. It emphasizes our shared interests and discredits “us vs. them” distinctions. It is also an opportunity to highlight our cultural, economic, and historical connections and contributions to each other. Because we’re all connected, those contributions are important to us all. Conversely, because we’re all connected, bad policies hurt us all – threatening our values and disrupting our communities.

Upholding Our Values

We have shared national values that should inform all of our policies:

  • Fairness and opportunity for all.
  • Equal treatment
  • Freedom from discrimination
  • American due process
  • Basic rights/human rights

We (native-­‐born and immigrant Americans alike) share common values that important to us personally:

  • Family
  • Economic security
  • Opportunity
  • Work ethic

Our values make us Americans, not just our papers. Our policies need to align with these values and make it possible for everyone to contribute and participate.

Our policies should reflect our core values: equality, fairness, accountability, opportunity. Aligning our policies to our values is crucial, particularly when times are tough, if those values are to survive and prosper into our children’s future.

A Commonsense Approach

We need policies that are:

  • Workable, Reasoned, Fair, Commonsense
  • Allow everyone to contribute
  • Acknowledge reality
  • Create a reasonable immigration process for aspiring citizens
  • Support communities

What we don’t need right now:

  • Anti-­‐immigration legislation that distracts from our real goals
  • Rash, unreasoned approaches
  • Policies that exclude and divide
  • Rash laws with unintended consequences
  • A patchwork of 50+ state policies

Immigration is an ongoing American experience. Immigrant Americans have always worked with other Americans to solve the problems we face together. Including and supporting them through commonsense policies will only strengthen us in the end. Other approaches are distractions at best – divisive, mean-­‐spirited, and even racist, at worst.

Our current immigration policies just don’t work. In a democracy, we have the power and responsibility to fix flawed policies.

Move Forward Together

We are all connected:

  • Immigrant Americans and native-­‐born Americans alike
  • We are all part of the solution
  • We all want to participate and contribute
  • Immigrant women are more than mothers, but also earners, workers and leaders in families and communities
  • We don’t want policies that exclude people and divide us

We move toward the future together.

  • We need policies that promote contribution and participation
  • We want to be poised for the 21st Century economy
  • We should encourage talent and innovation

Native-­‐born and immigrant Americans alike have contributed to our nation’s history, culture and economy. We need to ensure that our immigration policies make such contributions possible. We are stronger when we tackle our challenges together.

We need laws that promote public safety and uphold due process and equal justice and that integrate new Americans into our economic engine and social fabric. States must reject