It’s no surprise to many that illegal immigration continues to be a significant topic of concern in our community and our country. Goshen’s Community Relations Commission is working hard to constructively broach the topic by facilitating a community conversation. And there is plenty to talk about.
During a roundtable discussion Monday night at the Goshen High School media center, Darin Short, a consultant to the Goshen Community Relations Commission, announced that the commission is discussing the formation of a deliberative poll or community jury. Both have been practiced in other communities on a broad range of topics.
Here in Goshen, a citizen’s jury would likely review issues of immigration that tend to come up in the community, although Short said Monday night that processes have yet to be determined. In other communities these juries question experts on a particular matters, evaluate presentations and deliberate possible solutions or conclusions. There is no concrete authority, but within the process usually lurks the progress.
As for a deliberative polling, that’s pretty much what the title suggests. A large, demographically diverse and representative group is assembled to debate an issue. Some models poll the group before the debate and then again afterward. Like the jury, there is no real decision-making authority here, but concerns are shared and discussed.
So, some might ask, “What’s the point?” if there is no formal conclusion. From what we can tell the point isn’t to create authority. The goal is to create objectivity and a deeper understanding. Immigration has been a contentious issue since this country’s founding more than 235 years ago. What makes us think the issue will be solved here in Goshen, Indiana in 2012? It won’t.
Still, that doesn’t mute the concerns of Saulo Padilla who is the Immigration coordinator for the Mennonite Central Committee and holder of a week-old Green Card. Nor does it undermine the opinions shared by long-time Goshen resident Bob Schramyer who is one of the founders of Citizens for Immigration Law Enforcement. Both Padilla and Schramyer spoke at Monday night’s roundtable, as well as the community forum hosted by the CRC in June 2011.
What could these new initiatives accomplish? Maybe nothing in the eyes of those who don’t care to look deep enough. It will more likely have a nuanced effect for those who keep their ears open. Kudos to the Community Relations Commission for the important work it is doing. Certainly the last thing we want to do is stop talking altogether.