The United States of America is a nation of immigrants. We have been since the day we were founded, and we are a stronger, more successful, and more prosperous country because of it. How we treat immigrants has long been a testament to the type of nation we are. We all know the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty – “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” – but for so many around the world, these are more than just words, they keep hope alive during the darkest of times.

While there have always been policy disagreements about how we handle immigration, the type of extreme, hateful rhetoric and actions that we have seen from Republican governors in recent weeks was traditionally isolated to the fringes. Now we are seeing outrageous political stunts from Governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott as they turn human beings – people who have already been through unimaginable adversity – into pawns to try and win over Donald Trump’s MAGA base.

The Governors tried, and failed, to show that Democrats and immigrant friendly “sanctuary cities” only pay lip service when it comes to supporting asylum seekers and those seeking a better life. The reality is that Democrats believe in the promise that America offers, that we have a bright future ahead of us in a nation where equality reigns supreme and our diversity makes us stronger. We believe in supporting our neighbors and offering a helping hand to those who are going through difficult times.

That is why these Governors’ efforts to embarrass “liberal” communities failed. Those communities came together–despite a lack of infrastructure, shelters, and services–to make sure those human beings, who had been tricked into being political pawns, were sheltered, fed, and cared for.

The reality is, “Sanctuary Cities” are not lawless, crime ridden towns where criminals operate with impunity (despite what Govs. DeSantis and Abbott would have you believe). They are communities that value human lives and want to give people the opportunity to contribute to our society and seek legal status here. They accomplish this by putting in place policies that discourage or deprioritize local law enforcement from reporting the immigration status of individuals unless it involves investigation of a crime.

In fact, according to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, sanctuary cities have lower than average crime rates, household incomes are higher, and the poverty rate is lower on average than cities without these policies.

In order to move beyond dehumanizing political stunts and actually implement policies that address our immigration challenges, we need to work together as Americans. Donald Trump’s overpriced wall did nothing to stem the flow of immigrants through our Southern border and neither will private charter plane rides to exclusive islands.

We must create a pathway to legal immigration status that allows those fleeing persecution or gang violence to seek asylum and have a chance to plead their case. We should encourage people to voluntarily register with the government and then have the opportunity to contribute to society and earn their place here, without fear of arbitrary deportations or privately run, profit- first prisons.

America is a land of immigrants; nearly all of us are descended from people who came here seeking a better life for themselves and their children. It is time for us to work together and build an immigration system that is humane, decent, and fair for all.