YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE  [VERSION 2]

What an honor to have worked hand-in-hand with #RobertDeNiro and his producing partner, Jane Rosenthal: We three founded the Tribeca Film Festival as a way to help the recovery process in Lower Manhattan. The TFF became one of the largest and most critical on the planet.

It’s been a blessing to work with Bob in the festival, fundraising, and the movies. He’s a real visionary, as most people know. But we connect on a more meaningful level. We both think deeply about our immigrant ancestors. I’m a proud #sonofColumbus, and Bob’s people arrived here from Italy and Ireland. Jane’s heritage is Eastern European Jewish. Without immigration from the “sh*thole” countries our forebears came from, we’d have no country at all.

Bob and I are on the same Constitutional page. We both get that Emma Lazarus’s “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” built our country From the Ground Up. Emigres became our lifeblood from sea to shining sea, and perhaps no more so than in our powerful, varied, and vibrant New York City. Did you know that more than 20 percent of the victims of the World Trade Center attack were born outside the U.S? That’s 568 American heroes who immigrated here.

These brave people gave us the power to prosper in the mid- ’70s when our government basically told us to “drop dead” (that’s Bob’s colorful language). They gave us the vigor to recover after the devastation of 9/11. Now they’re inspiring to keep at our noble experiment even as our President and his administration erode much goodwill we’ve built since Ronald Reagan’s day.

And yet. Our immigration laws require major re-engineering. America’s busting at the seams. We can no longer support the kind of open door policy that allowed my grandparents and Bob and Jane’s ancestors in en masse. Are Mexicans rapists and murderers? Of course not. The vast majority of our immigrants are dreamers AND doers. Sure, we need to look at some countries that actively promote terrorism. We might very well need special rules for their citizens to come here. That’s just logical.

I’m tired of the idea that promoting immigration comes from racism and xenophobia. It has zero to do with that. No. It’s about economic exigencies. It’s about our disintegrating critical infrastructure. We need political stability nowadays, maybe more than ever. What is political stability? A large part of it is our ability to control who comes in, when, and how, and then oversee their contributions. Our country’s vast and populous. Differences are massive. An Alaskan Inuit couldn’t be more different than an Atlanta urbanite.

But our country was built and still works because most of these people share our core American values and beliefs. Personal responsibility. Family. Freedom. Faith. By the way, these are all core Conservative values and beliefs.

So let’s not overly politicize immigration reform. Let’s work across the aisle. Let’s remember our ancestors. Let’s roll up our sleeves and re-engineer immigration policies, From the Ground Up.

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