Members of the GW College Democrats and College Republicans debated the push and pull factors that lead to illegal immigration and solutions to the problem Thursday night in the Marvin Center Amphitheatre.
In the debate moderated by Alex Shoucair of the University’s Enosinian Society, the CDs and CRs tackled issues of border security, pathways to citizenship and the economic ramifications – both short-term and long-term – of illegal immigration.
Sophomores Paul Blair and Anthony Marenna debated for the CRs, while juniors Ari Kasper and Jonathan Schutrum represented the CDs.
Marenna started the night for the Republicans by stressing the need for a second look at the current immigration policy, particularly in light of the high unemployment numbers plaguing the nation.
Kasper challenged the Republicans’ plan, calling it a “step in the wrong direction” and saying that the Republicans fail to realize the two key issues in the debate: the flaws in the current system and ramifications of the illegal immigrants currently in the country.
Much of the debate focused on security at the border. The Democrats questioned the effectiveness of a border fence, and stressed the need for smart enforcement that employs technology, personnel and know how.
The Republicans proposed closing the border through additional means, such as integrated Web capability that provides intelligence and surveillance and the use of the National Guard for border security.
The two sides disagreed on the major flaws in the current system. The Republicans proposed setting up immigration quota to quell the problem posed by the sheer number of immigrants.
“In order to address the flaw of too much immigration overall, given that 9.7 percent of our population is unemployed, we would like to go back to quotas, but we would like to see more reasonable quotas across the various nations,” Marenna said.
Democrats pointed to the inefficiencies within the immigration system as one of the major causes of illegal immigration.
“Our current system is incredibly slow and incredibly bogged down in bureaucratic inefficiencies. There are more than one million citizenship applications now and those applications typically take three years before they reach the desk of a single government official,” Schutrum said.
When discussing the conflict between moral obligations and policy outcomes, Republicans argued that the root of the illegal immigration lies in the promises of America and the opportunities immigrants can find here.
“It’s as simple as this: the root of the problem is that America is awesome,” Blair said to laughter from the audience.
“The Democrats are doing a great job in stemming that, in ruining that, in addressing that cause…Thank you for the initiatives that have done absolutely nothing,” he continued, evoking applause.
The Democrats challenged the proposed Republican solutions, calling spending billions of dollars on a border fence a “ridiculous solution.”
“If we shut down the border, it won’t allow people to travel in their everyday lives and the people who are coming here illegally will still find other means to come here illegally. It’s not a solution, it’s a childish answer to an adult problem,” Kasper said.
In closing, Blair stressed the need for common sense solutions, including closing the border, setting up fair quotas and offering a reasonable path to citizenship.
“This is a legitimate crisis that demands common sense solutions. These solutions might prove to be politically difficult and even complex, yet they are solutions that are best for everyone, both the illegals and legals,” he said.
Schutrum emphasized the need for thoughtful, practical, humane solutions, including holding employers accountable for hiring illegal immigrants and the use of technology at the borders.
“This is a choice that is not merely between two parties, but a choice between the fresh air of progress and the stale environment of the status quo. A choice between dedication and mediocrity. A choice between national greatness and national decline. A whole world looks to see what we will do and we cannot fail to try,” he said.