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Immigration talk was often heated, but social media experiment proves we CAN talk to one another

By in Press Enterprise on September 16, 2017

By Casey Tolan, Alejandra Molina

Take an ex-trucker who blames illegal immigrants for his inability to find a job. Add in an undocumented immigrant who says that President Barack Obama’s executive order allowing her and other “Dreamers” to stay in the country changed her life. Put them both in a private Facebook group, along with 59 other Californians with strong views on immigration. Then ask them to talk about President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, visa quotas, the Dream Act and other flashpoints of U.S. immigration policy.

What could possibly go wrong?

After a month of back-and-forth, the participants in Talking Across Borders — a private Facebook group created as a media experiment to give people a place to talk respectfully about — are just as divided as ever. But the fact that they were able to have a conversation about immigration that mostly stayed civil shows that there’s still some hope our long-running national debate over immigration will eventually become less acrimonious, some participants of the group say.

“They disagreed wildly over just about everything, but they kept talking,” said Jeremy Hay, co-founder of the Alameda-based nonprofit Spaceship Media, which designed and moderated Talking Across Borders. Media partners for the project are the Bay Area News Group, the Southern California News Group and the Spanish-language TV network Univision.

The online discussion launched on Aug. 8 and ran through Sept. 5. Nearly half of the participants supported increased enforcement of immigration laws, while nearly half opposed tougher enforcement. Only a handful found themselves in the middle.

Participants posted articles they read, debated immigration statistics and shared their own stories. They engaged in 150 discussion threads, which sprouted into thousands of comments and conversations.

But peace was not at hand.

“I don’t think anybody changed their minds,” said Gregory Brittain, 59, a Redlands attorney who believes U.S. immigration laws need to be rigorously […]    

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