HOW SHOULD DEMOCRATS TALK ABOUT IMMIGRATION?

I'm one of the most frequently pro-immigrant voices here at TAPPED, but that doesn't mean I'm naive about the electoral challenges progressives are facing on the issue. E.J. Dionne writes at The New Republic:

One poll finding this week that shook Democrats came in a survey conducted by Democracy Corps, a consortium organized by party consultants Stan Greenberg, Al Quinlan and James Carville. It asked voters to pick two from a list of seven problems that explained "why the country is going in the wrong direction."

The survey found that among independent voters, 40 percent -- by far the largest group -- picked this option: "Our borders have been left unprotected and illegal immigration is growing."

By contrast, a lack of action on health care was named by only 24 percent of independents as a core problem, and Iraq by 23 percent.

Dionne points to the Dodd/Clinton driver's license debate as a harbinger of controversies to come, but doesn't offer a policy solution for Democrats running for president. I'll give it a whack. Here's my three point plan for talking about immigration:

1. Remind voters that George W. Bush and the GOP were so focused on Iraq that they failed to protect our borders in any meaningful way. Because of our federal government's failure to fix immigration policy, support programs -- like licensing drivers -- that make it easier for local communities to deal with the crisis.

2. Emphasize the staying power of the American Dream -- despite all our troubles post-9/11, people around the world still hunger for the American way of life.

3. Talk about values-driven immigration policies. Refuse to penalize the children of undocumented immigrants. Support a path to legalization for immigrants already here in the U.S. that keeps families together. Mass deportation is not a practical or humane option.

The emphasis should be on making more immigration legal immigration, a proud American tradition.

--Dana Goldstein

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