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Arguments for Change

On October 19 , the International Center and the Debate Team came together to offer their thoughts on the current U.S. Immigration policies in relation to the mounting tension surrounding the proposed support of mass group amnesty for unregistered immigrants.

Images from the immigration debate and forum

The debate was organized to examine the situation and promote discussion on the topic, in absence of government action. “Not until we have an honest and healthy debate about immigration, will our politicians stop the political rhetoric and vote-mongering and actually create legislation that might alleviate some of the concerns for all involved,” states Billy Wooten, director of the debate team.

At the beginning of the forum, students and faculty from Berea College along with members of the surrounding community entered the Commons Area in the Woods-Penniman Building.. The mood was light as the nearly 100 people in attendance greeted each other before finding their seats, some lining up in the back of the room to take advantage of the refreshments provided by Rio Grande, a local Mexican restaurant. As those enjoying the taquitos and quesadillas took their seats, Wooten introduced the debaters and the topic for the evening. He also explained that the criterion for success in the debate was not which side the audience agreed with, but rather the group that after presenting convinced the audience that their argument was the most fair. The topic would be whether a plan proposed by the first group was a fair solution to the immigration situation faced by the United States, which currently houses more that 15 million undocumented immigrants from Mexico.

The first group, made up of junior Romy Bernard, seniorBrendan Smith and freshman Lorena Luna, represented a conduit between the two countries governments, proposing a worker permit-based form of group amnesty and the increase of worker visa duration to 5 years. The second group, consisting of senior Jeremy Wells, sophomore Beth Coleman and senior Salome Kiwara, represented concerned Americans, who argued that the plan was not fair to all members represented and that the flaws in the plan would harm the American people and devoid their rights.

The debated was heated with the audience had mixed opinions. After any given statement one could hear a number of “boos” and an equal number of “here-heres,” The side representing the government used arguments like the rights of immigrants to a second chance and our countries international responsibility, whereas the opposition used arguments like’s America responsibility to its citizens’ first chance and our own national responsibility.

The strong fact-supported arguments continued through the night until all forty-five minutes allotted to the debate had been used. Wooten released the debaters to a well earned break and introduced the guest speaker Sam Rock.
Rock, who works as an immigration lawyer and is a self-proclaimed immigration rights advocate, came and thanked the debaters for their depth of research and well delivered debate. He then clarified some common misconceptions about unregistered immigrants. One misconception is that if a person is not a citizen of the U.S. and they work a normal job, they do not pay taxes, taking jobs and money away from the country. The truth behind this matter is that companies employing unregistered immigrants, remove the taxes from each paycheck, this all adds up to an estimated 50 billion dollars a year in taxes paid by unregistered immigrants.

“People should go through the legal process,” Rock shares, “but there is no practical legal process.” This was Rock’s response to a question asking whether or not immigrants should be allowed to enter the country by any means. Rock adds, “We cannot accomplish border security unless we have a process to bring people through legally”

With all of this to think about the night came to a close.. It was obvious from the small group conversations forming throughout the room that the organizers had accomplished their goal.

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