How the Holiday Spirit Can Open Up Conversations About Immigrants

People sharing food on a Thanksgiving table

The holidays are a time when many people reconnect with their core values through giving, sharing and uniting with friends and family. When the topic of immigration comes up, however, we are often tempted to debate the subject using facts and policy details. What values can we activate in ourselves and others to help us talk productively, rather than contentiously, about immigration in the holiday season?

Dr. Marisa Gerstein Pineau, a researcher from the FrameWorks Institute, which uses social science research to drive social change, gives us a few value-based approaches (or “frames”) to give context to discussions of immigration. “Values…help establish why a social issue is important, not just for that particular group, but for all of us,” she says.

Human Dignity/Moral Obligation: Everyone deserves basic compassion and respect, no matter who they are or where they were born.

Shared Prosperity: We all collectively benefit from the talents, skills and cultures immigrants bring into our country.

Pragmatism: A practical, working immigration system is a common-sense goal.

Prof. Westy Egmont, retired director of the Immigrant Integration Lab at Boston College, expands on these values as they relate to religion. “Welcoming a stranger is about as basic to the faith community as any single message. Treat others as we want to be treated: The Golden Rule.”

This holiday season, as we take the time to reconnect with our own stories and core beliefs, try having a values-based conversation about immigrants with a friend or family member: connecting to our most basic shared humanity and American practicality when it comes to welcoming newcomers can lead to greater prosperity for all of us.

Dr. Egmont goes further to say, “Make it part of your Thanksgiving celebration… Let’s find a way where someone’s story becomes a story that we can all identify with and want to do something about.”

For more from these and other experts, click here to view recordings and slides from The ILC Public Education Institute’s webinar What We Have in Common: How to Talk About Immigrants.

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