Use proper language on immigration

Misrepresentation on dreamers
Demonstrators at a rally in support of the Dream Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 21, 2018.
Demonstrators at a rally in support of the Dream Act on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 21, 2018.

Thank you for sharing Jon Lemelin’s March 3 letter, “Congress: Do more to protect Dreamers.” I share Jon’s conviction and was inspired last year after meeting with a group of New York Dreamers myself. They’re students, teachers, nurses, doctors and fill the ranks of countless other valued professions. Hundreds have enrolled to serve in our armed forces. They were brought to this country as kids and they grew up here, went to school here, made friends and forged their identities here. As with any other group facing policy challenges, how we talk about them matters.

Dreamers are Americans in every way but their paperwork. If we want safer communities with stronger economies. We shouldn’t be spending our precious government resources ripping productive families apart. They aren’t “illegals,” as some have said. Actions are judged legal or illegal, not humans.

This isn’t the only euphemism thrown around in the immigration debate. Local municipalities are dubbed “sanctuary cities” if they dare to refuse a zealous federal government demanding to deputize every municipal police officer and department to become de-facto deportation officers. Our police officers are on the job to protect and serve our communities, not to act as storm troopers rounding up peaceful, hard-working individuals. In fact, we have seen such a role strain police relations and make community policing less effective.

Most recently I have heard the term “chain migration” used as a euphemism for family migration policies, sometimes referred to as “family reunification.” As Jon expresses in his letter, families are not chains. They are blessings and one of the best tools we have to ensure productive stable immigration system.

If we want to solve the challenges in our immigration system, we need first to be clear, fair and honest in our language. As we search for bipartisan action, we should focus on real demonstrated threats, not ones that are trumped up and used to distract us. And in all such endeavors, we must set prejudice aside.

Rep. Paul Tonko

Categories: Letters to the Editor, Opinion

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