Heated immigration debate at Penn State Abington chills room

Penn State Abington hosted a heated immigration debate on Tuesday, Sept. 28, where Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), squared off against human rights activist Enrique Morones, founder of the humanitarian organization, Border Angels. A chill penetrated the room as the two debaters launched fiery barbs across the room at each other. Digging deeper into their entrenched positions, it was plain to see how the topic of immigration is polarizing this country.

Moderator Ross Brinkert, assistant professor of corporate communication, may have gotten more than he bargained for as he tried to keep the debaters on topic and off each other, so to speak. In order to reel in the rhetoric, when Brinkert asked each debater to sum up their position in a few words, here’s what they had to say:

Stein's comment: "Restore credibility and give the people the right to decide (who comes in to the country)."

Morones’ comment: "Humane and comprehensive immigration reform."

Acknowledging that there are 11 million undocumented people in the United States with many more wanting to come here, both parties agreed that something must to be done.

Stein, in his matter-of-fact tone, told the audience FAIR supports secure and enforceable borders, effective interior enforcement, packet (nuclear family only) migration, enforceable caps (limits), workplace enforcement including employer sanctions, and a simplification of the deportation process. "Streamline the detention/deportation process so that it can't be given in to oblivion such that the immigration process isn't over until the alien wins."

Morones referred to FAIR as a hate group, supported by the KKK, white supremacists and minutemen. "FAIR is not only anti-Latino, it's anti-African-American, it's anti … people who don't look like him," said Morones pointing at Stein, and getting a laugh from the audience.

Morones stressed a humanitarian approach to the immigration situation, explaining it as, "a pathway to legalization." Having met with President Obama, Morones agreed with the President that immigrants should assimilate and learn to speak English, they should pay a duty to get into the country and they should also get in line … if one existed.

"For the people coming from south of the border, the vast majority have no line to get into. That's not right. This is a country of 310 million people. It's a great country. What makes it great is the people coming from all over the world but there's not--like there was before the 1920's--a way to get in line. So let's continue with the spirit that made this country great. That Statue (of Liberty) that says, 'give me your poor, your tired, your hungry masses.' All we have now is a fence between the United States and Mexico … because of that fence two people die every day … risk their lives coming into the country looking for a better life. Bring this country back to its principles."

Throughout the debate the mostly student audience was encouraged to do their own research, look up both sides and organizations -- FAIR and Border Angels -- and make up their own minds.

"It's important that you study these issues and make up your own mind because the future of the country is in your hands,” said Morones.

To see a video of the debate at Penn State Abington go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbpEtAKGFjI online.