Immigration Reform

Almost everyone, both liberal and conservative, claims to be in favor of “immigration reform,” but what exactly is meant by “reform” can vary widely.   Liberals tend to favor policies which make it somewhat easier for people to come here, and, for those already here (legally or illegally), to achieve some kind of permanent legal status.  Conservatives generally favor stricter immigration controls.

Conservatives often point out that resources are not infinite - proposing more conversation about wise limits and processes to have in place. Liberals tend to focus more on the contributions that immigrants make, arguing that, while there are certainly some costs associated with immigration, it nevertheless represents a net gain (both culturally and economically) to American society.

Conservatives sometimes express concern that any hesitancy on their part about immigration can be framed by liberal opponents as xenophobia or fear-mongering. Some liberals, on the other hand, point to the long American history of resistance (some of it violent and almost certainly xenophobic) to each new wave of immigration, and, from this vantage point, are often skeptical of the real motivations behind those who advocate even moderate immigration controls.  

At times, sincere efforts on the part of conservatives to make smaller good-faith step-by-step reforms have been opposed on the grounds of not measuring up to more sweeping reforms sometimes envisioned by progressives. From another perspective, most reform suggestions coming from the present Democratic administration arguably differ little from immigration policies set in place by previous Republican administrations. And progressives tend to see, in present-day Republican attempts to “build a wall” and to “militarize” (as progressives would say) the border, not “moderate” but “extreme” tendencies that are, they would say, xenophobic.


  • If you were solely in charge of who gets to enter the U. S. legally and who doesn’t, how would you do it? How would you choose?
  • Have you had any personal experiences with immigrants to the United States (legal or illegal)? How did those experiences affect your views on immigration?
  • Do you know anyone who either would or would not have been able to come to the U. S. if immigration laws were different? How would it have affected their lives and the communities they lived in?
  • Do your feelings about immigration change when the people involved are children or the elderly? Why or why not?