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Citizen Dialogue in the South End 10/21/17

Date: 10/27/2017
Author: Omar Abdel-Baqui

Citizen Dialogue provides opportunity for conversation

Policy, processes, proper terminology and enforcement were all aspects of immigration discussed at the Citizen Dialogue at the Wayne State Student Center on Oct. 19.

The event, moderated by Detroit Free Press Columnist Brian Dickerson, brought representatives from both viewpoints of the immigration debate and had them discuss their stance in a debate-like fashion.

Rudy Robinson, an immigration lawyer, WSU alum and member of the Michigan Immigration Rights Center, was the representative for those who are pro-immigration reform. 

The originally-planned representative for tighter immigration policy decided not to attend the event. In her place, Amy Bloom from the Center for Study of Citizenships spoke for a stricter immigration strategy.

Bloom was not made aware of having to represent the right wing until about six hours before the event, Dickerson said. The opinions she gave during the dialogue may or may not have been reflective of her own beliefs.

“It was difficult for us to find a speaker of an opinion that is very broadly held,” said Dickerson. “This is partly due to the fact that people are afraid and partly because the Republican Party is holding a huge, all-hands-on-deck fundraiser tonight.”

Around 1 million people have immigrated to the U.S. in 2017, a number which has been consistent since the year 2000, Robinson said.

“The concern is that more immigrants will make life bad for Americans and I truly do not believe that is the case,” Robinson said.” We are a nation of immigrants and unless you are a Native American, at one point someone in your family immigrated here.” 

Bloom shared an opposing view to the topic. She said, “Having more immigrants cuts back the wages of people already living here. If we really want to improve the American standard of living, we should rethink our policy on immigration.”

As far as illegal immigration, Robinson said he believes that people who have come to the U.S. illegally should be presented a path to citizenship.

Bloom, on the other hand, communicated a much different stance.

“We have a lot of people in this country living here illegally and creating a path to citizenship for them really turns the book of law,” said Bloom. “They should have to go to the back of the line like everybody else.” 

Robinson then went on to explain the correct terminology to address undocumented immigrants. 

“Illegal is an adjective. Using the word ‘illegals’ is incorrect and not appropriate. These are people we are talking about,” said Robinson.

To conclude his turn, Robinson spoke about the economic benefits that immigrants bring to the U.S. and the history of racism the U.S. immigration system carries.

“Immigrants sustain and build the fabric of our communities. They contribute significantly to our tax system,” said Robinson. “Our system is a racist system that disproportionally affects people of color and it seems that every generation or two, there is one group that is significantly affected.” 

Bloom said the U.S. government should be containing the number of people coming into the country.

“We need to take care of our own. We live an era of scarcity problems. How can we let people in when we are struggling with our own issues and our own budget?” said Bloom. “Is it racist? I don’t think so. It’s a way to preserve communities. When people are living in communities they expect them to stay a certain way.”

After the friendly debate, audience members were given a chance to speak with one another about their beliefs and stances on immigration.

“This dialogue allowed me to communicate with people who hold different views and who are at different states of understanding this topic,” said Issamar Camacho-Almaraz, a senior anthropology major. “It gave me an opportunity to share my opinion and advocate what I believe in.”

The next Citizen Dialogue will be held in January 2018 on the topic of gerrymandering.