Political Clubs Host Immigration Debate

Ryan Wolfe

Last Thursday evening in Driscoll Hall, the first steps toward understanding each other and healing our nation were taken. The first debate between the Villanova College Democrats and Villanova College Republicans was held on the issue of immigration into the United States. Each group came prepared with materials to defend their respective stances. 

“[This debate] is not about winning, it is about finding ways to improve our society and find common ground,” Villanova Democrats Co- President Caleigh Manyak said.

The debate started by discussing what should be done about the approaching mostly-Honduran caravan from Guatemala and Mexico. are coming to the United States to seek asylum. The attitude from the College Democrats was one of sympathy for the caravan and other people trying to seek asylum. 

“I was at the southern border just two weeks ago. The border patrol asks: Do you have credible fear? This question could easily be mistranslated, and even if these people do have credible fear for their lives, they could be sent back to where they came from instead of acquiring asylum,” one College Democrat said.  

College Republicans claimed that while their strife was legitimate, the people crossing the border were still breaking the law. The conversation strayed from asylum itself transitioning to about whether or not the current system works and the issue of assimilation and holding on to one’s culture. 

“We can’t ask people to get rid of their own culture. We would lose the melting pot identity of America. We just ask them to learn about our culture along with their own,” a College Republican member said. 

As the conversation moved along, a majority of the group voiced opinions that illegal immigration should not go unpunished, but disagreement arose about how harsh the punishment should be to the incoming immigrants. 

College Democrats made the argument that the crime was a misdemeanor, according to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. They claimed that illegal immigrants should not be treated harsher than a citizen of the United States would be for an equivalent crime or example, going above the speed limit on the highway. 

The College Republicans countered this stance with the claim that it is not fair that the people coming here through illegal means should get off with a misdemeanor while people who apply for citizenship through the legal route should have to wait for years to be accepted, sometimes even more than a decade. 

The group then came to the consensus that reform is needed to the current system in the United States. 

The debate then transitioned to talk about what should be done about the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Some argued for the abolition of ICE, but the College Republicans claimed that upheaval of the current system and implementation of a new one would be a waste of money. 

The College Republicans then discussed the new system President Trump has proposed which would exponentially grow the biometric checking system in the United States, something that has been in the works since the early 2000s, and that implementing this system along with reforming ICE would be much cheaper than completely throwing out our current system and starting over.

The next issue discussed was jobs. “They’re coming here without consequence, and they’re taking good paying jobs which,  according to the Law of Economics, lowers the pay for all of our low wage workers,” one College Republican said.

Senior Andrew Arendash responded with the claim that while they aren’t for corporate “serfdom,” they recognize that these people are doing the jobs that American citizens would not want to do, such as working in factories, working in construction and working as farm hands. 

College Republicans countered the argument of undesirable employment with the idea that the United States is projected to automate much of the labor force within the next 10-15 years, which would leave these undocumented people in the country without work with families depending on them. Andrew Arendash responded, arguing that businesses haven’t automated their workforce yet and that people have been saying 10-15 years until automation for the last 10-15 years. 

Finally, after much contentious, and at points, heated debate, the group came together to agree on one subject: visas. The College Democrats and College Republicans both decided that the visa system in the United States is broken and allows for people to stay in the country long after they were initially supposed to leave. 

The College Democrats made the important distinction that the people who stay here with expired visas are just as illegal as the “fence hoppers,” so our focus shouldn’t be on a wall on the southern border, but rather on reforming our system to prevent more exploitation and have a more broad focus. 

College Republicans generally agreed with this sentiment and said that ICE should be stronger and have more authority, contrary to what some Democratic Congresspeople have called for in Washington D.C. 

However, while agreements were made and middle-ground was found, until the very end of the debate, no real plans were brought forward. However, Joseph Luongo, a Junior College Republican, brought forward his plan, SRAP, to general group approval. SRAP, the Sponsorship & Refugee Adoption Program, would be an adoption plan to allow refugees to come into the United States more easily. 

“Each refugee family or group of refugees are presented with a sponsor,” Luongo said. “The sponsors would be responsible for the refugees that they ‘adopt’ from the legal point of entry. They are responsible for housing them, feeding them and ‘bringing them into the system’ by using the last name of the sponsor family. The sponsors are responsible for everything their refugees do, including if they commit a crime. This plan creates accountability on behalf of not only the refugee but also the sponsor to make sure they’re helping create an upstanding member of society.”

While not many definitive plans or ideas were presented, the debate allowed the members of the two groups to see the reasoning of the other side, something that is often lost in the rhetoric used in current day politics. 

One debate attendee stated, “Let’s not think in the context of Red or Blue, but let’s just all be people.”