Immigration, Immigration

Disclaimer: My personal views might have affected this blog due to some selective hearing…

On Tuesday, June 29, 2010, the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL) hosted an immigration debate featuring both progressive and conservative debaters.  This event was the brainchild of my colleague, vice-chair Jonathan To, who realized last year the potential of bringing together speakers from opposite sides to debate the issues at hand after CAPAL’s healthcare panel.

The debate was an Oxford style debate modelled after the Intelligence Squared style that is so popular throughout media.  The motion discussed at table was “We should provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

The side arguing for the motion cited reports from the Cato Institute about the economic impact of immigrants and also the emotional impact of having undocumented immigrants and their families torn apart.

The side arguing against the motion pointed to studies that discredited the economic impact that immigrants had, and advocated for stronger enforcement while acknowledging the situation had to be dealt with in the long term.

What was really interesting was that polling that was conducted to determine the mood of the crowd.  Prior to the debate, the percentages trended towards being for the motion (over 70%), while only a minority was against (about 8%).  After the closing arguments, however, those for the motion dropped to a little under half (about 45%) whereas those against the motion rose to about a quarter (about 24%).  This means that there was a significant shift in public opinion after hearing the debate.  Now I can’t speak to exactly what went on that shifted the opinion so much, but I am fascinated by the fact that there was a significant shift.  This is definitely something to be explored further.

It’s clear that something needs to be done about immigration.  It’s clear that both sides recognize this fact.  The question is, how do we get from A to B, while making sure that the country continues to grow its economy and keep its citizens safe.  I hope the legislators get this one right!

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