Once again, the issue of immigration is in the spotlight, capturing international headlines. A world in turmoil has created a new generation of migrants and refugees seeking a better life in more stable countries.

While countries in Europe are struggling with how best to address the current stream of people fleeing war and chaos, Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged that the United States will increase the number of migrants and refugees we allow to 100,000 annually.

Our country’s track record on immigration may not be a perfect one, with some particularly dark chapters, but our commitment to be a nation of many peoples is what makes our country great.

The California dream is the American dream and our cities are where the building blocks of that dream can be found: the schools where children learn the skills they need to access better opportunities, the apartments and houses in which people will build homes for their families, and the jobs that give them the means to provide for their loved ones.

But achieving this dream is only possible if people can access these building blocks for a better life.

Here, in California, we have taken great strides to allow people to find the freedom they seek: the freedom to live without fear, the freedom to give their children a better opportunity, and the freedom to earn a living.

America, California and all our cities are made great by, not in spite of, as Donald Trump would have us believe, immigration. The exchange of ideas, cultures and viewpoints enrich our communities as well as our local, state and national economies.

Our cities have been shaped, both in terms of demographics and built environment, over the centuries by migrants seeking out a life of their own, creating unique cultural enclaves, whether they come from Guadalajara, Beijing, or Tulsa.

Our cities are places where people born hundreds of thousands of miles apart from one another live as neighbors, mingling in supermarkets, restaurants, Farmers Markets, parks, schools and other vibrant common places.

A community’s diversity is not only evidenced by its people, but also its buildings. In cities that purposefully or inadvertently eschew diversity, freedom can be diluted in a sea of parking, homogenous architecture and chain restaurants.

Many of us who have chosen to live in Santa Monica did so because of our community’s diversity and tolerance. Santa Monica is not a gated community.

But these community values are not imperishable. We must actively defend these principles from those who would cynically exploit our baser instincts and demonize the faceless “other.” We must be willing to make room for new people, both culturally and physically.

In the words of our state song, “I love you, California, with your Golden Gate ajar.” Let’s continue to live that philosophy; it’s what makes our city, our state, and our nation great.

Irma Carranza, Tim Harter, Irene Zivi, Cynthia Rose, Ernie Powell, Judy Abdo, Leslie Lambert, and Jason Islas for Santa Monica Forward. Read previous columns atwww.santamonicaforward.org/news.

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