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Changing the tone on immigration

July 14, 2008, 11:35 am | Posted by adanielsen

Alien. Illegal immigrant. Undocumented worker. Human being.

When we talk about immigration, which phrase is most often left out?

More than perhaps any other issue, immigration can devolve into back-and-forth rhetoric that denies the humanity of its subjects, casting them as faceless, nameless problems rather than people with real hopes and fears. In a debate that often references what language people speak, we allow the language of immigration to become undignified and un-dignifying.

Fortunately, affirming humanity continues to be a top priority for people of faith looking to shape immigration policy. A courageous group of Iowa faith leaders, for example, recently called for a more humane policy by discussing “basic human decency” and expressing the need to respond to “God’s call to feed the hungry, cloth the naked and visit the imprisoned,” according to Christian Post’s Ethan Cole.

We’re hearing positive rhetoric from the presidential candidates too. God-o-meter points out a new McCain ad which refers to Latino immigrants as “God’s children.” The San Diego Union-Tribune relays Sen. Obama’s words in a recent speech:

“They’re counting on us to stop the hateful rhetoric that is filling our airwaves — rhetoric that poisons our political discourse, degrades our democracy and has no place in this great nation,” Obama said. “They’re counting on us to rise above fear and demagoguery and pettiness and partisanship and finally enact comprehensive immigration reform.”

This improved tone is finally starting to eclipse the hateful rhetoric surrounding comprehensive immigration reform and presidential primary ads that blamed immigrants for everything from economic hardship to terrorism. McCain and Obama should be encouraged to continue down a path of reason and compassion in the hopes that others, from thought leaders to everyday folks, will follow suit.

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