The College Democrats and College Republicans gathered in a Marvin Center conference room to debate immigration reform on Thursday night.
The debate took place during a time of increasing momentum for immigration reform in the media and the government, though there has been less discourse on immigration in light of the government shutdown and various international conflicts.
Reminding audience members of already existing proposals, Moderator Ari Massefski opened by asking both sides to discuss S. 744, an immigration reform bill the Senate passed in 2013.
College Democrat representatives senior Rio Hart and freshman Victoria Goncalves argued in favor of the bill, while the College Republicans took issue with parts of the bill.
“S. 744 makes a number of important accomplishments to move immigration forward in America, S. 744 however, includes a lot of pieces that America isn’t necessarily ready to adopt. Notably, the path to citizenship, which we agree with is an important step and that’s why it was passed in bipartisan census, is not a correct step until we secure the border,” sophomore Joseph Nelson rebutted.
As the debate progressed, discussion continuously circled back to Democrats supporting the Senate bill and Republicans supporting a piecemeal approach, enacting certain aspects of the Senate bill alone, instead of the entire bill.
Throughout the discussion of the Senate vs. House gridlock, an interesting analogy emerged.
“It’s unprincipled to say that the House Republican party is just sitting there waiting for a dance partner,” Hart maintained, “when the dance partner has put on some music, written a bill, passed it in a bipartisan way, and is waiting in open arms for you to pass something that they can pass so it can be sent to a President who desperately, desperately wants immigration reform so he can deliver on promises he’s made.”
Nelson responded saying, “if it is true, that the Democrats are simply waiting there and if the dance analogy is true, they would be willing to accept a dance partner and try to dance and wait for the correct music.”
Hart concluded for the College Democrats saying, “if you go to a dance and you ask someone to dance, and then you only dance using your right foot from the knee down, you’re not very good at dancing and you’re not really going to accomplish much with that dance. You need to be able to use the whole body, otherwise you’re going to get nowhere with that dance. So what the House Republicans are essentially doing is the Hokey Pokey.”
The dance continued and the “holistic vs. piecemeal” argument proved to be the staple of the night. Both leaders of the respective organizations took pride in their debaters’ performances.
“I thought it was an excellent debate. The points that [Hart and Goncalves] outlined are consistent with our party’s approach of balancing border security with other immigration issues,” said College Democrats President Omeed Firouzi.
College Republicans Chairman, Alex Miller, was also pleased with the debaters representing his organization.
“I think [Joseph Nelson and Ryan Sun] showed our fundamental policy views. They highlighted the illusions of bipartisanship in the Senate bill. [Nelson and Sun] talked a lot about border security and the other side focused on other issues that can’t be addressed until we secure the border.”
The College Democrats and College Republicans will be announcing their respective speakers for the #OnlyAtGW debate in the upcoming weeks.