Should undocumented immigrants receive amnesty? Angel Diaz, a 2014 graduate of Northampton Community College, and José Rojas, a future student at Temple University and an ROTC member, took the approve-amnesty side, while Elizabeth Garcia, the president of the Political Science Club assumed the disapprove-amnesty stance at The Great Immigration Debate on April 14 at NCC. Amnesty is the act of an authority such as the U.S. government by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.
The views expressed in the debate were not necessarily the panelists' own opinions.
The moderator, Mitch Murtha, assistant dean of students, asked the panelists four questions:
How would granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants impact the American economy?
•· Undocumented immigrants are already contributing to the economy, including paying Social Security and other taxes.
•· They are utilizing their skills and adding value to the workplace. If they had amnesty, these immigrants would have more opportunity to enter professional fields, although many already have white-collar jobs.
•· Amnesty would have positive and negative effects on the economy. On the negative side, a country suffering through hard economic times, cannot provide jobs and resources for undocumented immigrants.
How would granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants affect education?
•· Schools would become overcrowded.
•· English as a Second Language courses would strain the schools' budgets.
•· K-12 education is already available to undocumented immigrants; many students are already enrolled.
•· Amnesty would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for federal and state financial aid for college at a time when increasing numbers of employers seek employees with master's degrees.
•· The high school dropout rate would decline because students would know that opportunities exist for them after graduation.
What impact would granting amnesty to undocumented immigrants have on national security?
•· Many undocumented immigrants are experiencing hardships that amount to a humanitarian crisis. It is our duty as Americans to help them.
•· If less time is spent pursuing undocumented immigrants, more time could be spent on apprehending criminals.
•· One can't be sure of undocumented immigrants' intent on entering the U.S. There are no background checks. Some sort of regulation should be put into place.
How would amnesty for undocumented immigrants affect the Lehigh Valley?
•· The Lehigh Valley is growing economically. The effect of undocumented immigrants on the area is too unknown.
•· Crime is less likely to be reported out of undocumented immigrants' fear of discovery, resulting in less safe neighborhoods.
•· Occupational fairness will increase because fewer employers will be able to exploit employees' fear by paying them low wages.
•· Undocumented status puts a heavy weight on the shoulders of young people, who must keep a burdensome secret.
In their closing statements, the approval side said that deferred action is inadequate. "We are proud Americans who have been here a long time. We want to contribute to our country. Why punish Dreamers, who had no choice in coming here?"
On the disapproval side, Garcia said that our government should open up alternative paths to citizenship. "I don't believe in deportation," she said. "The legal immigration process should be shorter and less expensive. She said that visas should be extended from the current few years to ten to fifteen years. People with visas should be given an option to become citizens according to their actions in this country.
Throughout the debate, Diaz offered insight from her personal experience. An undocumented immigrant whose parents brought her from Colombia at the age of three and overstayed their visas, she did not discover her status until the ninth grade. Abruptly she discovered that she could not obtain a driver's license or apply for federal or state financial aid for college. She became an activist for amnesty and after graduating as an outstanding student at NCC, enrolled at Muhlenberg College, where she is majoring in business administration and pre-law. Presently on deferred action, a status that lasts for two years and is subject to renewal, she is thrilled that she will soon receive her green card.
Audience members voted by text message and chose the approval team as the winners.
The Great Immigration Debate was organized by members of the student leadership program.