Democratic candidates’ forum on immigration–a comment

From left: Father Frank Alagna; candidates Dave Clegg, Jeff Beals, and Brian Flynn; moderator Elana Michelson.

Comments from Bob Gelbach, UIDN member

Photos by Ken Dreyfack. 

The Community Education and Advocacy committee at UIDN held a candidate forum Sunday afternoon, April 15, to hear aspirants for Congress in CD19 state their positions on immigration policy and on the values that are at stake in our government’s treatment of refugees and immigrants. Only three candidates were present, but others sent written messages on the issues. About 130 people came to Christ the King Episcopal Church in Stone Ridge, and candidates Beals, Clegg and Flynn each noted appreciatively the passion of the audience in responding to the moderator and speakers, and in posing their own questions as well.

Jeff Beals.
Dave Clegg.

For me, this was the most substantive presentation at any candidate forum this year. Not only was each candidate convincingly aligned with the needs of refugees and immigrants, but they presented an analysis of the nation’s current challenges that integrated immigration policy as part of what needs to change.

I came away hoping we get a candidate as focused as Beals, Clegg, and Flynn on the fundamental social and economic processes that are being politically exploited to promote anti-immigrant hostility. They clearly saw anti-immigrant politics as just one more way to divide and distract communities that need to join and work together at home. And they understood that US foreign policy, climate-change denial, and corporate manipulation of foreign economies are all factors that turn millions of new people each year into political and economic refugees, available for exploitation.

Brian Flynn.

It was clear on Sunday that the candidates are motivated to stand on that analysis and to advocate policies that protect immigrants and build coalitions that work for greater equality and social wellbeing. But even the best candidates cannot do this on their own.


If anything, the afternoon convinced me that a heavy burden is now on the various components of the post-2016 “resistance:” to mobilize ourselves and also sell our vision to others.

The plight of immigrants is part of the wider pattern of economic exploitation and political domination – a pattern that is sustained when elites can set groups against each other. Now we have candidates for Congress who want to advance equal opportunities for all. They need our help to bring that message to our own neighbors.


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