America is a nation of immigrants. We’ve heard that refrain time and again since our childhood. As a country we take pride in our history of welcoming newcomers from around the world, and putting them to work in building our great nation. Nothing can be more emblematic of this aspect of American culture than the Statue of Liberty, its torch held high to welcome immigrants onto our shores while also lighting the way to freedom and opportunity.
So what happened to that promise and ideal? Today, massive workplace raids root out undocumented immigrants. Technological advancements tighten the noose around them and the businesses that depend on their labor to survive and grow. Detained immigrants waste away in tent cities. Thousands of families are torn apart, American children kept from their undocumented immigrant parents. Border fences rise and the Border Patrol balloons as human beings seeking a better life die in deserts striving to elude them. And despite promises from politicians on both sides of the aisle, immigration reform remains a distant hope typically dangled before Latino voters only as elections near. How did we get to this point of policy failure and political intransigence so severe that it calls our own humanity and conscience as a nation into question? And how can we break the gridlock and forge a viable solution that upholds our ideals as a nation?
As Red Brown and Blue (RBB) pondered the problem and sought to contribute to that solution, we arrived at this hypothesis:
• Immigrants have always been – and continue to be – beneficial to America’s vitality and growth, but our immigration laws are outdated and must be reformed to legitimize the millions living here and contributing from the shadows. However, unfounded fears, misperceptions, and myths dominate public perception of undocumented immigrants and their impact on the American economy, culture, and society, forming daunting obstacles to immigration reform.
With this in mind, we devised Raise the Torch: the RBB Study of Undocumented Latino Immigrants. Our vision was to help light the way towards progress based on truths and facts, to inject new and accurate information into a dim and stagnant debate with the hope of:
• Helping to break the gridlock by illuminating new areas of shared understanding and potential consensus with regards to the intentions, attitudes, socioeconomic contributions, cultural characteristics, and longterm outlook of undocumented Latino immigrants
• Informing public policy with data-driven insights that might help policymakers craft legislative proposals which are not only palatable politically but are also highly feasible in implementation and compliance
• Empowering Americans to base their perceptions and opinions of undocumented immigrants, and their corresponding positions on immigration reform, on facts and improved understanding of this group, rather than on unfounded fears, myths, and misperceptions
The study illuminates a fascinating portrait of undocumented Latino immigrants in America. It captures the motivations, resilience, and hopes of a community in search of opportunity. The study depicts a population primed to blossom into patriotic and productive citizens if afforded the opportunity to contribute legitimately to our society and economy. At the same time, the findings cast a stark light on the harsh realities of immigrant life as well as the threats and challenges faced by this largely disenfranchised population vulnerable to discrimination, abuse, and hate crimes.
Opening our minds and evolving our positions in the face of new information is essential to our learning and growth both as human beings and as American citizens. A willingness to reevaluate complex issues based on a richer perspective is vital to constructive civil discourse. It is my belief that the information within this study can help voters, influencers, and policymakers more accurately understand undocumented Latino immigrants in order to craft well-informed, humane, just, and feasible bipartisan decisions on immigration reform.
In the end, should we not know a person or a group before we pass judgment upon them and determine their fate? At the very least, this study can help serve that purpose. And at its best, it might not only inform – but also inspire – Americans to prove that we can still raise the torch.
The opinions expressed in this post and throughout RedBrownandBlue.com are intended to encourage civil discussion and invite well-reasoned alternatives. You can participate in the conversation by finding us on Facebook or Twitter.
Rudy Ruiz has been hailed as a cultural visionary. A published author and multicultural advocate, Ruiz is an acclaimed multicultural communications entrepreneur. He founded Red Brown and Blue as well as Interlex, one of the nation’s leading advocacy marketing agencies ranked by Ad Age as one of the Top US Agencies across all disciplines. Prior to that, Ruiz earned his BA in Government at Harvard College and his Masters in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.