WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the nation looks beyond 2020 to a new administration in a divided nation, immigration presents a unique opportunity for bipartisan compromise and national unity.
That was the driving theme of the National Immigration Forum’s Leading the Way convening this week, where a diverse range of speakers from government, faith, business, higher education, policy and media focused on the need — and opportunities — for reform under a Biden administration and likely divided Congress. More than 1,000 moderates and conservatives registered to attend the virtual event.
Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who received the Forum’s Courage to Lead Award, emphasized the nation’s rich immigrant history and common values.
“Think about the characteristics of immigrants: risk-taking, family-oriented, entrepreneurial, patriotic,” said Rep. Lofgren. “It’s all the things that we like to think of that are the best of America.”
“[Immigrants are] good people, they just want to work, they just want to improve their lives, their families’ lives,” added Rep. Simpson. “What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that the reason all of us came to America at some point in time?”
Other speakers urged the incoming administration and Congress to make immigration a priority, including expanding refugee resettlement and legislating permanent solutions for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
“In this moment, coming out of what we have been experiencing under the Trump era, it is our job to ensure that both the incoming Democratic administration and the Congress act on immigration,” said Lorella Praeli, President of Community Change.
“This should be a win-win for both parties,” said author and Republican political strategist Stuart Stevens. “You have to make immigration a referendum on decency. You have to make it a referendum on who we are as Americans.”
On the issue of refugee admissions, “America is a country that historically has had bipartisan support,” said David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “It would be great if we could get back to a day when America’s commitment to refugees becomes a source of bipartisan problem-solving.”
“We’ve tried to figure out how to be the warm and welcoming democracy built on immigration and in particular,” said Dr. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University. “Relative to these [DACA recipient] students, we’re talking about people who are children, whose lives have to move forward, who need to be treated justly, and that’s what we have decided to do.”
The Forum also honored Chef Christian Irabién of Muchas Gracias; Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, executive producers of Little America; Aleja “Lee” Plaza, a home caregiver with the Filipino Worker Center, an affiliate of the National Domestic Workers Alliance; Postmates; and Dr. Amit Vashist, Chief Clinical Officer at Ballad Health, with its annual Keepers of the American Dream award, recognizing those who work to keep our nation safe and welcoming for all — particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we look ahead to the next four years, this week’s convening put forward a clear vision for how the incoming Biden administration and Congress can forge immigration solutions that work for all of us,” Ali Noorani, President and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, said of the four-day event. “The strong bipartisan spirit from our diverse range of speakers makes it clear: Immigration is a win-win issue, and both parties have an opportunity to build consensus and drive positive change for all Americans.”