We all have preconceived notions. We all assume things about people and their ideas and actions. I’m not a child development specialist (well, any more than any dad is), but I think it starts back in childhood, maybe because kids like it when things can be easily sorted and catalogued. Not that you’ll ever get a five year old to say that outright, but it’s true. Kids like clear boundaries and things that can easily be defined. They like to be able to identify this object as going in one box and another as being different and going in a separate box. Heck, we clap and cheer them on when they do it correctly!
But that sort of thinking hurts us as adults.
If you looked at a description of me on paper, I’m not sure that “immigration lawyer” is what you’d guess as to my career and calling. If you saw a picture of me hunting, I’m not sure that fighting for a DREAMer’s rights, or helping reunite a family, is what you’d think I was doing on a given day. In my boots and jeans on the farm, would “business visas” cross your mind?
I’m not the stereotypical immigration lawyer but I’m here to tell you there is no such thing. AILA has 13,000 members. We are all unique, we all came to immigration reform from a different perspective and that difference can make our community stronger, if we allow it to.
But if we assume that someone isn’t going to agree with us, or can’t see our point of view, then we are closing a window, barring a door, and guaranteeing that we will never understand each other.
I’m as guilty of having preconceived notions as the next guy, but I’m working on it. And I’m asking anyone who doubts the importance of immigration reform to let their preconceived notions of what it would mean for our country go by the wayside. All of you who have given up hope that a particular Congressperson will ever see a different side of the immigration reform message, set those notions aside too.
Let’s all go at this with a renewed sense of purpose. We know that if the majority of Americans can be in favor of sensible immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship, then it isn’t a matter of party affiliation determining if someone will see the need for real reform.
We need to kickstart the fight for immigration reform and we need to do it the right way. We need to broaden the tent, approach those we might not think we have too much in common with, and start the conversation.
I’m asking you all to take a look at assumptions you have made and preconceived notions you consider fact rather than opinion. Talk to someone with an open mind and instead of assuming theirs is closed, speak as though they are not the “enemy” but instead an observer who simply hasn’t seen what you’ve seen. Share your knowledge of how our immigration system needs to be fixed, share your reasoning and your passion, and real change can happen.