The Politics of Immigration: Laws and Human Dignity

Conversation Guide

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What are the “deal-breakers” that keep Congress from fixing our immigration system? And who decides how to enforce laws while still treating people humanely? Migration of large groups of people has become common throughout the world. Most people migrating are looking for a better life — a place to live peacefully, raise children and find work. And when the legal process for immigration and asylum moves too slowly, people looking to escape violence turn to human smugglers, entering our country illegally. This sets up a cycle of increasing criminality as people seek to escape violence. Is it possible to uphold laws while still honoring human dignity? And when does upholding the law become immoral?

Background Information:

Political diversity is essential to some conversations. Especially with polarized topics, we encourage you to take extra care to include people who hold different political views. Engaging only with people who hold similar views can lead to further entrenchment of our own beliefs and more polarization. 
When inviting guests, consider all kinds of differences – age, culture, political leaning, gender – what voices are you most interested to hear from? What voices might best enrich your conversation?
Immigrant: An alien admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Permanent residents are commonly referred to as immigrants.

Refugee: Refugees are generally people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home because they fear serious harm. You may seek a referral for refugee status only from outside of the United States.

Asylum Seeker: Asylum status is a form of protection available to people who: 1) Meet the definition of refugee 2) Are already in the United States 3) Are seeking admission at a port of entry.

These are the legal definitions provided by the U.S. government. You can explore more here and here. While you don’t need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic.

Let's Get Started!

This Living Room Conversation flows through three rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.

Before You Begin...

Please go over the Conversation Agreements with your participants.

Introductions: Getting Started/
Why Are We Here?

What interested you or drew you to this conversation?

Round 1: Core Values

“Answer one or more of the following:
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are and what inspires you?
  • What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country?

Round 2:

The Politics of Immigration: Laws and Human Dignity

Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared interests, intentions and goals. Answer ​one or more of the following questions:
Remember that the goal of this Living Room Conversation is for each participant to listen to and learn about the different opinions within the group to see where you might share interests, intentions, and goals.

Answer one or more of the following:

  1. Have you or your family (in recent history) ever moved to a different country?  How did it go?
  2. When you hear about mass migration — what do you think or feel about it?
  3. Have you ever advocated for or against immigration? Why? What did you do?
  4. Should immigration laws be suspended, modified or enforced during times of massive refugees?
  5. Are the levels of immigration today too much, not enough or “just right”?

Round 3: Reflection & Next Steps

Answer ​one or more​ of the following questions:
  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation?
  • What new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Name one important thing that was accomplished here.
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

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