The way we talk about issues like the border can tell us a lot about our own unconscious hopes and fears. The border is an important economic hub, accounting for billions of dollars in trade and thousands of jobs. It is home to millions of people who love the cultural diversity, deep history of cooperation, and the physical beauty of the regions. The story that is more familiar to those who are further removed is similar to my mother’s reaction of chaos and despair. This dominant way of thinking surely reflects our fears, but what about our hopes? As a communicator tasked with talking about these issues, I struggle with this divide.
Communicators working for fair and just representation of all people and regions across the country can contribute to a new and more complete story by complementing the work that has already taken place by the advocacy groups on the southern border. Promoting the vision of hospitality, empathy, and solidarity with newcomers, particularly those fleeing destitution and persecution is crucial to this pendulum change. Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist, founder of Define American, and undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas campaigned against the term “illegal immigrant” and in April of this year the Associated Press announced that it was dropping the term from the AP stylebook succesfully changing how mainstream media refers to a part of our community. His example is one to follow as we bring our heads together across the country and work towards shifting the discourse of our southern border.
Organizations such as the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) based in El Paso, Texas are moving the dialogue forward by reestablishing the truth about border life. They share the story of a peaceful, diverse, and economically vibrant border that provides a positive roadmap for our future as citizens of a great nation that respects the humanity of all, including those that risk their lives to find better opportunities. According to a report from BNHR titled The New Ellis Island, “The crime rate in border counties is lower than in non-border counties and crime levels have been decreasing for years.” Many of us, including my mother, will be tempted to deny this fact because it goes against that gut feeling we get when thinking of the story we’ve been told consistently. How can we tell a story that helps guide our thinking toward a sane border policy that balances the economic, cultural, historical, and safety concerns in a way that works for us all?