I’ve grown tired of the pushback against President Donald Trump’s immigration stance, particularly as a conservative millennial. The protests, outrage, anti-refugee accusations and overturning of his executive order miss the fact that Trump is right about one thing: Now is the time to take action on the issue of immigration.
In ancient Greece, the appropriate moment to say or do something to persuade or enact change was known as a “kairos moment.” The idea is that if you can say or do the right thing, at exactly the right time, your persuasion and action will be more powerful. Such moments in the past include Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. These actions were placed in peak moments of historic debate and relevance. Trump has done the same thing with his anti-immigration rhetoric and recent executive orders. Whether you agree or disagree with the order, his timing speaks to a current crisis in the minds of many Americans.
Safety and security has been on the forefront of the American consciousness for the past decade and a half as citizens continue to recover from the 2008 financial crisis and face globalization in regards to a rapidly changing job market. Further, American concern grew after attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, Miami and other places across the globe. These events, along with turmoil in Europe over the migrant crisis in 2015, have brought immigration issues to the forefront of public debate.
The far right in Europe and the United States has captured the immigration spotlight with its strong rhetoric and concrete proposals. From the U.K.’s Brexit to Le Pen’s “inherited or merited” policy in France and Trump’s wall in the U.S., these politicians have gained momentum, and they gained it by boldly addressing timely concerns with concrete actions.
Today’s kairos moment calls for a national and international conversation about two things: First, who do Americans want in their country and how will we help them get here? The Center for Immigration Studies, a nonpartisan policy research organization, advocates creating a system that supports strict immigration control but supports immigrants and enables their success once they arrive. Americans need to make sure that foreigners who share their values and desire to contribute can get here, and that they are supported and enabled in living those values once here.
Second, how will we help stabilize and make safe the regions many immigrants and refugees are coming from, namely Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen? The 2011 Arab Spring proved that people and citizens from these regions want more stability, security and democracy — values shared by most in the Western world. Rather than shunning and isolating these regions, we should be strategizing how to promote security and freedom. Trump was right in targeting these countries as areas of concern, but wrong about how to deal with them.
Throughout the Cold War, freedom radio was broadcasted into Iron Curtain communist countries. Similar tactics are now used with North Korea. Serious strategies should also be discussed and implemented in the above-mentioned countries to encourage freedom. Relations between the U.S. and these countries should be promoted, not discouraged.
Now is the time not to simply protest what is being done about immigration by the Trump administration. It is time to advocate effective processes and policies that promote the immigration system we want, rather than blockading airports and yelling in the streets. Social media posts, marches and conversations should be held about constructive solutions, not simply anger against what is being proposed. Advocacy could include posts trending #ChangeNotBlame, creating videos voicing solutions and posting articles from policy research organizations that propose viable and researched solutions.
These, and other constructive forms of public forum and debate, can help shape and steer the conversation on this issue. Citizens can either speak up and contribute to what that change should be or extremists will continue to set a controversial agenda.
Davey Runnells is a member of The Millennial Agenda, a millennial-inspired, millennial-driven organization. Davey is currently studying English at Brigham Young University.