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Immigration and Conflict Resolution

This article examines this author's perspective on immigration from a conflict resolution perspective.

Immigration has been a controversial topic in this country for many years. Although the United States is a nation of immigrants, the country is divided by those who oppose and by those who are in favor of immigration reform. On one side there are activists, students, and families who are working towards finding a way to help immigrants already in this country become legalized and build a realistic pathway for new immigrants. On the other side, you can find political parties, who prefer that all undocumented immigrants get deported back to their countries of origin and permanently close the border to new immigrants. Both sides have strong arguments for their values and beliefs but ultimately, they are both looking for the same outcome. They want a strong, safe, and prosperous country.  

Those opposed to an immigration reform believe that immigrants are coming to the United States to take over American jobs and will cause more job competition. They believe immigrants are going to take advantage of social services programs such as health care and food stamps. They think that because they are here illegally, immigrants do not pay taxes. Recent politicians referred to immigrants as rapists and criminals, causing more hate and dislike towards the immigrant community. Some people believe they are only here to commit crimes and will eventually increase the prison populations which are funded by taxpayers. 

Those who are in support of reform want to help immigrants who have been in this country for years become legalized and free them from the fear of being deported. They want to stop deportation because they are separating families and causing emotional stress on adults and children throughout the country. These supporters believe that legalizing immigrants will help the economy and fill vacancies in unpopular jobs. They know that these immigrants are not criminals, they come to this country better themselves and work hard. They pay taxes just like everyone else and want to avoid using social services. They want to find ways to help those living in other countries that are seeking political asylum. They are refugees who are afraid of being killed in their country. 

In Difficult conversations, the author talks about contributions and how we need to understand each other’s points of view instead of blaming each other for the problem. The current immigration system is broken, and it is easier to blame immigrants than by the process by which the US government handles immigration services. People do not know that a large majority of undocumented immigrants currently in the country have already been petitioned by a family member or employer to become legalized. However, the wait time for these applications is extremely long. Some of these applicants have been waiting for over 20 years. When their time does come, their personal lives are scrutinized and anything that is not to an agent’s standard can easily result in deportation. The current immigration process is difficult and unhelpful for both parties. Blaming one party over the other is hiding the real problem and making it hard to fix the current issues present in the immigration division.

In Getting to Yes, we learn about the importance of mutual gain for both parties. Both groups want this country to continue being safe and prosperous. There is a desire from both parties to find a process that will people ways to come to this country legally. Fixing the current immigration system will take years. Fixing small portions at a time will eventually lead to better immigration policies that will hopefully benefit both parties.   

In 2012, President Barack Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Program, allowing children who were brought into this country when they were children protection against deportation and a work permit. These recipients were brought to the united states by their parents when they were young children. They did not know they were entering the country illegally and have lived here much of their life. These are children, teens, and young adults that have been living in fear of deportation for years. DACA recipients will receive a social security card, will be able to apply for a driver’s license, receive a work permit, and can have access to some benefits such as aid for higher education. There are requirements to qualify for this program, one of them being not having a criminal background. There are currently about 823,000 DACA receipts in the United States.

The DACA program did not fix the immigration system but it is a step in the right direction. Most of these recipients are students, they are working on higher education, planning to give back to their communities. This is a positive outcome for both parties because it is a legal way to help the community and applicants have no criminal background. Community activists are hopeful that there will be a change to the immigration system with this new administration. 

Since immigration is such a controversial topic, it can be difficult to have a conversation with someone about this topic. According to Cloke’s article on Let’s Talk: Charlie Hebdo, Immigration, Terror and Prejudice — Notes Toward a Proposal for Dialogue over Difficult and Dangerous Issues, we need to find ways to encourage better communication on issues such as immigration. Promoting conversations with trained mediators can help cover the topic to prevent thoughts from coming across as angry or insensitive. He encourages using certain questions such, as Is it possible to view your differences as two sides of the same coin? If so, what unites them? What is the coin? (Cloke, 2015) or What underlying values or ethical beliefs led you to your current political beliefs? (Cloke, 2015)   The DACA program is a great example of a way we can start helping undocumented immigrants while maintain and setting restrictions on who can apply. This program can be used as a model for future immigration policies.


Cloke, K. (2015, June). Let's Talk: Charlie Hebdo, Immigration, Terror and Prejudice — Notes Toward a Proposal for Dialogue over Difficult and Dangerous Issues. – Find Mediators – World's Leading Mediation Information Site.

Fisher, R., Patton, B., & Ury, W. (2013). Getting to yes: negotiating agreement without giving in. Media Production Services Unit, Manitoba Education.

Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S. (2010). Difficult conversations: how to discuss what matters most (2nd ed.). Penguin Books. 



Yuli Martinez

Yuli Martinez is a student at the University of Oregon. MORE >

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