What is A United South Carolina?
Over recent years, as the rhetoric regarding immigrants and immigration has become ever more polarizing, heated and fearful, community leaders throughout South Carolina, including business owners and religious leaders, have felt the urgent need for a more thoughtful, good-natured and fact-based discussion than the one being conducted by the many misinformed sources who inhabit both the fringes and the mainstream.
Their broadsides have ignored our country’s rich immigrant traditions, as well as the many economic and cultural contributions made by the newly arrived, choosing instead to dehumanize them as “illegals.” Meanwhile, our broken immigration system functions as a fast track to society’s margins and violates the very principles upon which our country was founded.
However, a model for changing the discussion on immigration does exist. It comes in the form of so-called “welcoming” initiatives, efforts enacted in various states. The intent of these efforts, just like that of A United South Carolina, is to transform the public dialogue on immigration into one marked by respect and dignity, which are fostered through relationship building, community education and the strategic use of media.
A United South Carolina believes in:
Acceptance: Immigration is an American experience and acceptance is an American value. The contributions of immigrants make our nation and our state stronger. The greater the diversity of skills and experiences we have, the more we can achieve together.
Opportunity: An essential part of creating a welcoming state is to create real opportunities for everyone in our communities. A job that pays a living wage, a chance to own a home for the first time, a scholarship to be the first in your family to attend college, a loan to start a small business – these are the opportunities that have helped families in our communities prosper over the generations.
Compassion: The simple passage, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”, reminds us that it is our responsibility not to simply “look out for #1″ but to look out for all. Religious teachings call us to help the suffering – to feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty, to open our homes and our communities to welcome strangers. Decency demands it.
Fairness: Since the passage of the 14th Amendment in the wake of the Civil War, we have strived to ensure equal protection of the law for everyone. Sometimes we’ve done better than others. While the gains of the Civil Rights Movement were a huge leap toward ensuring fair treatment for all people, regardless of race, the legacy of discrimination lives on in the neglect of immigrants’ basic rights.
Respect: South Carolinians remember, honor, and value our roots, and we respect and embrace the values of family, faith, and hard work. South Carolinians are welcoming people, and we believe in a shared responsibility to treat all neighbors with respect and decency. We share a fundamental belief in the human dignity of all people.
A United South Carolina is devoted to:
- Hospitality, diversity and the respectful treatment of all our neighbors;
- Recognizing that immigrants are fellow human beings and rejecting the use of de-humanizing language;
- Raising the level of public discourse concerning immigrants and immigration, so that public policies reflect our highest values; and,
- Challenging common myths and stereotypes about immigrants.
A United South Carolina will achieve its mission of transforming the public discussion on immigrants and immigration to one of respect and dignity through relationship building, community education, and the media. We will encourage immigrants and non-immigrants to meet and exchange stories, break bread together, and build connections and relationships. We will offer organizations and groups different ways of exploring immigration and the role of immigrants in their community through workshops, book and film discussions, and other creative learning environments. We will also use the media to reach a larger number of people with positive messages about immigrants and immigration. This will include newspapers, television, and radio. Finally, we will ask that everyone who is moved by our efforts take concrete action to make South Carolina a more welcoming state for all, by endorsing our campaign, becoming a presenter, speaking with the media, approaching elected officials, etc.
Organizations and individuals joining this effort will be encouraged to have conversations regarding immigration and immigrant rights with their members, constituencies and/or communities in ways that are most appropriate for them. Through these steps, we will create the conditions for more humane and sensible treatment toward immigrants and all members of our communities.