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ND: Not so clueless

Katie Palmitier | Monday, October 8, 2007

Cher Horowitz was ahead of her time. Although often viewed as “Clueless” to her Beverly Hills posse in the 1995 teen movie hit, Cher got it right when she said, “And in conclusion, it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty!”

Who would have thought that an innocent topic in Mr. Hall’s debate class would soon be on the forefront of political debate nationwide? The University of Notre Dame has even gone as far as dedicating this entire academic year in promoting conversations on immigration.

This year’s topic of conversation is highlighted with Notre Dame’s annual Academic Forum, which is being held this afternoon. With the presidential elections right around the corner, immigration is not only a hot topic on the campaign trail, but also it is being discussed around campus and throughout the country. The prominence of the immigration discussion was even mentioned this past weekend during the ND v. UCLA game with a commercial highlighting Notre Dame’s interest in immigration. Because immigration is such a popular and important issue today, everyone should take advantage of the Academic Forum and immigration-centered events happening around campus throughout the year.

I know that classes are cancelled this afternoon. I realize that many of us would rather go shopping, take a nap or play Zelda than sit inside the JACC for two hours listening to various speakers. However, these “speakers” have a lot to contribute to the ongoing conversations concerning immigration. Florida senator Mel Martinez, Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, Hazleton, Pa. mayor Louis Barletta and Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney are this year’s featured guests, and they all have a profound interest and first-hand experience with the issue.

These professionals, intellectuals, religious leaders and students will be discussing various aspects of immigration. Issues like amnesty, wages, taxes and health care should all be covered during the Forum. And, if not covered explicitly, Notre Dame is offering several other opportunities to get involved with immigration conversations. The University has provided a suggested reading list as a way of becoming informed about the issues, as well as implicated an immigration film series in DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Also, there are online courses and resident hall debates. Immigration is a much more complicated issue than many people think, and I respect and applaud the University for highlighting this significant political, economical and social issue.

Many United States citizens, myself included, are very ignorant and unaware of the issues surrounding immigration. Illegal immigrants can have significant effects on health care, public schools and the economy. Is it fair that illegal immigrants can come to America and receive health care in our emergency rooms? Can it be justified that illegal immigrants take part in American public schooling without paying taxes? These are just several of the economic and political questions that surround the issue of immigration, and questions that will hopefully be discussed today.

Immigration also calls for a discussion regarding human rights. Many immigrants working in America are earning despicable wages for grueling labor. However, as a result, we Americans are reaping the benefits. Goods are cheap and services that were once considered luxuries are now middle class norms. Is it ethical to allow a human being to work long hours in a sweltering hot Florida orange orchard just so consumers can purchase oranges at a somewhat lower cost? Americans need to focus on what is actually important in the long run, and discover that dignity and the worth of a human being far outweigh the worth of several saved dollars.

That is just my opinion, however. People throughout campus and throughout the country have differing opinions and can offer convincing viewpoints on the issues attached to immigration. The University is taking a huge first step in beginning the discussion on immigration, and hopefully the rest of the country will soon jump on board. Only then can change truly begin to take place.

Now I realize that it is an impossible task to convince the entire student body to attend the Academic Forum today. Until recently, I myself was not even interested in going, and I understand how tempting a few extra rounds of Wii bowling can be on a Monday afternoon. But even if you don’t quite make it to the JACC today, at least hop on the Web site or check out a movie at the DPAC. As students, we have been given an outstanding opportunity to become involved in this extremely important issue, and, as citizens, it is our duty to take advantage of it.

Katie Palmitier is a junior political science major. She can be contacted at kpalmiti@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.