You may have experienced it: You’re sitting at the dinner table with loved ones gathered for the holiday season, and the subject of immigration comes up.
One or more of your relatives have the strongly held belief that immigrants and refugees are a net minus for America. Suddenly you’re drawn into defending your beliefs, and the discussion becomes heated.
You’re dealing with another case of Seasonal Argumentative Disorder (SAD).
Luckily, our friends at America’s Voice, Lake Research Partners, ASO Communications, and The Opportunity Agenda have come up with some great ways you can calm the waters, while still getting your message across. Their thinking on this is quite detailed; after all, they consulted with more than 100 advocates dedicated to standing with immigrants and refugees. But perhaps the most useful words we can draw out of their report on the matter are just that — words.
As the authors say, “use the words that work to win.” You may be able to do so without raising the volume or resorting to high-temperature rhetoric. Maybe you’ll even be able to bring your grouchy relative around. All in all, a good step towards curing Seasonal Argumentative Disorder.
They recommend replacing, as you speak:
- “undocumented workers” with “aspiring citizens”
- “illegal aliens” with “new Americans”
- “illegal immigrants” with “new American immigrants”
- “reform immigration system” with “create an immigration process”
- “pathway to citizenship” with “roadmap to citizenship”
- “paying taxes” with “commitment to country”
- “do jobs no one wants” with “contribute to our culture”
- “no human is illegal” with “all people have rights”
- “secure the borders” with “people move”
- “rule of law” with “freedom”
Of course, not all of these swap-outs may fit with your way of speaking or thinking. But it’s tempting to believe the authors are on to something here, because they developed these recommendations after running six focus groups in three cities, then checking the results with a national representative sample of 1,145 voters. And it’s helpful if more of us who want to Stand for Welcome are on the same page, speaking the same language.
In all things, these suggestions aside, it’s good to reflect on how people of faith don’t tolerate denigrating language, and how treating the sojourner as citizen among us, as Scripture entreats us, includes using language that upholds the dignity and value of every person.
These “words that win” may not be a definitive cure for any Seasonal Argumentative Disorder you run into this holiday season. But I’m glad there are people out there thinking hard about the answers!
Image credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture