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Immigration policy debate held at Baker Institute

By Sapna Suresh     11/18/14 4:25pm

The Rice Young Democrats and Rice College Republicans held a heated debate on the United States’ immigration policy and President Barack Obama’s potential executive action on the topic on Thursday, Nov. 13.

Martel College freshman Dylan Dickens, Duncan College sophomore Vera Ranneft and Will Rice College junior Ryan Sun represented the Democrats. Hanszen College sophomore Zach Birenbaum, Hanszen junior Jacob Mansfield and Duncan sophomore Karlos Lopez represented the Republicans. Wiess College senior Zach Watterson served as the moderator.

Both teams presented introductory statements prefacing their arguments on the immigration issue. The Democratic team discussed the need for illegal immigrants to be made lasting members of American society.

“The United States federal government should implement the comprehensive immigration reform bill senate legislative 744, which is [currently] stalled in congress, by immediately enacting the title two, which is concerning visas and a pathway to citizenship,” Dickens said. “[This] would provide the 11 million illegal residents with a mechanism to achieve permanent legal status.”

The Republicans offered a contrasting viewpoint by arguing for heightened border security and discouraging providing illegal immigrants with path to citizenship.

“Securing the border must come as [the first] priority to other immigration policies,” Birenbaum said. “As Republicans, we believe you can’t put the cart before the horse on immigration policy. A secure border ensures the future enforcement of immigration laws and legitimize[s] the immigration policies now and in the future. Registered provisional status works towards achieving legal permanent residency. Legal permanent residency offers the same social welfare benefits of citizenship but precludes the opportunity to vote or receive government employment.”

The two sides agreed on a few key points, including helping immigrants in escaping violence in their home countries, not punishing children for the actions of their parents and encouraging the simplification of the legal immigration process.

Later in the debate, each team posed questions to their opponents that aimed to expose holes in their arguments.

Ranneft asked the Republicans, “How are we able to fully develop our cultural awareness if we don’t integrate people into our society?”

Mansfield questioned the Democrats, asking, “How can we prevent millions of illegal immigrants from continuing to flood into our country if [the Democratic] plan doesn’t address border security?”

The moderator also asked both sides several questions from the audience.

Rice Young Democrats member and McMurtry College freshman Mishi Jain said she enjoyed the structure of the debate and the ability of the audience to pose questions.

“I most definitely thought that the debate was a fantastic platform for two parties, [which] may not get along usually, to constructively participate in dialogue,” Jain said. “Sometimes it's easy for people to only know information about their party's ideology. This BISF debate allowed to gain insights from both parties peacefully.”

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