Students Debate Immigration

Republicans and Democrats argue about Arizona laws in student debates

The topic of immigration in the United States sparked two debates among students and faculty across campus last night.

Representatives from four undergraduates student groups—the Harvard Republican Club, the Harvard College Democrats, The Harvard Salient, and Perspective Magazine—met in Adams House to present their views on U.S. immigration policy at an event that soon escalated into a heated discussion during which several students shared how their families had been affected.

Both the Harvard Dems and Perspective Magazine advocated “amnesty” policies, with the Dems arguing that the “greatest problem” when it comes to immigration policy is “failing to recognize the humanity of immigrants”.

The Harvard Dems suggested there is “a lot of racial hatred when it comes to discussions of immigration.”

Representatives from The Salient stressed the issues of “American sovereignty, the rule of law, and fairness” as they relate to immigration policy and concluded that a policy of “enforcement” would be best since past “amnesty policy” attempts in the 1980s failed.

One topic that stirred much debate was racism, as liberal participants held that race and racism were underlying themes of conservative notions of immigration policy.

At a different event held in the Fong Auditorium sponsored by the Harvard Foundation, two panelists discussed challenges in forming immigration policy, such as tensions between federal and state legislatures.

Moderated by Luisa L. Heredia, a lecturer in the sociology department, the panel featured Colombian-born Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Edward Schumacher-Matos facing off against Richard Chacon, who heads the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants.

The two focused on the recent legislation passed in Arizona which Schumacher-Matos described as a law that “required the police to stop and question anyone who looked like they might be here illegally.”

“And any citizen could sue their police department if they didn’t do that,” he said.

Schumacher-Matos encouraged students to continue driving the immigration debate on college campuses.

—Staff writer Julia R. Jeffries can be reached at juliajeffries@college.harvard.edu.

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