Can careful messaging turn skeptics into advocates to bring about fair immigration reform?
I traveled out of state on Tuesday to participate, with 12 other faith leaders from across the country, in media advocacy training on immigration reform. It is an intensive, hands-on, four-day workshop on media messaging for the sake of addressing the challenge of finding a way for more than 12 millions illegal immigrants to become tax-paying citizens.
It's interesting that the language I prefer to use regarding the immigration challenge that our nation faces is theological and ethical. I want to use "welcoming the stranger in our midst," "caring for the alien among us," "being a neighbor," "doing justice," etc. I don't want to use the term "illegal immigrants," but "undocumented workers" or "people who came to our country without proper documents."
But this language and approach is not winning the hearts and minds of most Americans, who take a much harder, jaded view of illegal immigrants. People have ambivalent feelings about folks who are in our country without documentation, or who have stayed after their visas expired. The mood of the majority of Americans right now is not at all favorable toward them. Finding the language and approach that speaks to our common interests and values in regard to the future of 12 million illegal immigrants is critical.
This four-day workshop explores this challenge. Can careful messaging in the news media and in conversations with people effectively turn detractors and skeptics into favorable voters and advocates to resolve an immigration situation that has spiraled out of control and leaves many people--American citizens as well as illegal immigrants--vulnerable and angry? I hope the answer is yes.
In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.