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3 ways you can change the conversation about immigration on Facebook

Media Uncovered  |  By Carly Goodman, Nov 18, 2016
Migrant justice protest in Denver, CO

Migrant justice protest in Denver, CO

Photo: AFSC / Denver office of AFSC

 

During the election, we all saw awful comments on Facebook about immigration, suggesting that immigrants don’t belong. We dug through some of these comments, and drawing on recent research, put together tips for the best ways to counter negative, dehumanizing comments about immigration. First, speak from the heart. But also be prepared with facts that support pro-immigrant policies. Finally, share how we all benefit from inclusion. So the next time you see someone talking negatively about immigration on Facebook or in real life, try using these techniques, backed up by facts, to change the conversation.

Scenario #1

They Say: "Send them all back home."

You Say
: "We need to treat every member of our community with compassion. We should not support a system that tears apart families." 

Then, shift to the facts:
 "It wouldn’t make sense to send every person who is in the country without documentation back to his or her country of origin. Two-thirds of undocumented immigrants have lived here for more than 10 years and are established and enmeshed in our communities. Removing that number of people from communities all over the country would take many years, would violate civil liberties, would cost over $114 billion, and would have rippling consequences that would harm all of us. Deporting 11 million people would have staggering human and economic costs, leaving children without parents and families torn apart while reducing the nation’s GDP over 10 years by $4.7 trillion, and costing the federal government alone nearly $900 billion in revenue in the next decade." 

Finally, emphasize inclusion
: "By working instead to implement reasonable immigration reforms and creating a pathway to citizenship for members of our communities, we can move the country forward in ways that benefit us all."

Scenario #2

They Say: "I support legal immigration, but why should I support someone who breaks the law?"

You Say: "The system today leaves about 11 million people in the shadows. Two-thirds of them—millions of people—have made homes here for more than a decade. The goal of our immigration policy should be to provide people with a path out of fear and out of the shadows."

Then, shift to the facts: "Being in the United States in violation of immigration laws is not a crime. And in the current system, getting a legal immigrant visa is not as simple as getting in line. People want to gain status, but most who are undocumented have no realistic avenue to do so. The U.S. hasn't updated our immigration laws for people to do so in a significant way since 1986."

Finally, emphasize inclusion: "Most people in the U.S. support the idea that undocumented immigrants should be able to apply for and receive legal status and a pathway to citizenship. Instead of focusing on immigration status, we need solutions that are inclusive and humane and that promote shared prosperity."

Scenario #3

They Say: "Immigrants threaten our safety."

You Say: "Immigrants are long-term residents of the United States who strengthen our communities."

Then shift to the facts: "Research actually shows that higher rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent crime. Between 1990 and 2013, as the foreign-born share of the U.S. population nearly doubled to 13.1 percent, the rate of violent crime across the United States declined by 48 percent. Immigration has also contributed to the revitalization of our communities; unauthorized immigrants pay taxes ($11.6 billion in 2013) but are often unable to access public benefits and therefore contribute more to the system than they take. If undocumented immigrants were offered a path to lawful status, it is estimated that they could add at least $2.1 billion in state and local revenue, and generate $4.5 to 5.4 billion in additional federal tax revenue."

Finally, emphasize inclusion: "We can move the country forward by pursuing common-sense immigration reforms that recognize everybody's humanity."  

For more tips on changing the conversation on immigration, click here for a guide to discussing these issues at a family dinner and here for more research-driven ideas to reframe the immigration debate.

About the Author

Carly Goodman is a historian and the Communications Analyst and Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow at AFSC.

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