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To change the political discussion on immigration, elect more immigrants to office

Friday, June 17, 2016

The national discussion on immigration, during the current presidential election cycle, seems much more like a heated, polarizing argument than a civilized debate. One way to return civility to the discourse and make it more evenhanded is to get more immigrants involved by electing them to office.

One organization trying to do just that is the New American Leaders Project (“NALP”), based in New York. A nonprofit, NALP trains immigrants who are interested in running for office. The organization does not limit its training by geography nor by party affiliation. Founded in 2010, NALP has helped to prepare hundreds of first- and second-generation immigrants across the U.S. for political candidacy.

According to the group’s website, it recruits immigrants with proven track records of “civic involvement” and trains them to be political candidates, which involves topics such as fundraising, networking with constituents and public speaking. The purpose of this endeavor is to elevate the national discussion on immigration and to involve more immigrant voices in the political discourse, itself.

The organization’s founder, Sayu Bhojwani is, herself, an immigrant. She was born in India and, after making her way to the U.S., worked in the Bloomberg administration. Eventually, Bhojwani decided she wanted to have a greater impact on public policy in the U.S. by helping immigrants find political voices and launched NALP. Since its first graduates left the program in 2011, 10 NALP alumni have been elected to office at various levels.

Evidence clearly demonstrates that immigration has many cultural and economic benefits to the United States. While it is important that immigration be regulated, it should not be restricted that U.S. business, academic and tech interests are hobbled. In order for there to be meaningful reform, the immigration discussion must be less divisive. Having more immigrants in elected offices certainly seems like a good start toward civilizing the discourse.

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