Under the auspices of the Kettering Foundation, the National Issues Forums Institute held 86 nonpartisan public forums in towns and cities in 28 states in 2018 and early 2019 on the issue of immigration. Here are two take-aways from the forums:
Support immigration. When asked at the end of the forums whether they agree with the premise of the third choice, that “current levels of immigration are too high, and the country is now becoming so diverse that we are endangering our ability to assimilate newcomers and maintain our national unity,” most rejected this perspective on the grounds that it reflects an outdated, ethnocentric understanding of who “real Americans” are. These views, which are consistent with recent national polls, help to explain why the percentage of Americans who favor cutting legal immigration is fairly low and has declined in recent years.
Do not want laws disobeyed. While participants often talked about unauthorized immigrants with considerable compassion and empathy, most also felt strongly about the importance of the rule of law. Few were comfortable with a system in which laws were routinely flouted and those who skirt the law were permitted to gain an advantage over those who enter through legal channels. Forum-goers in several communities made a point of noting that they live in “sanctuary cities,” which have declared that they will not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in rounding up and arresting people who are here illegally. Many people, however, including those who are inclined to support liberal immigration policies, voiced serious misgivings about allowing cities to act in defiance of, and noncompliance with, federal laws.