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BridgeND hosts open debate on immigration

| Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cooperation, civility and compromise: The words at the core of BridgeND’s mission statement formed the basis for an open debate on immigration Wednesday night between several student groups in the LaFortune Ballroom.

The club, which strives to promote dialogue between students of different political philosophies on campus, and Women in Politics invited five student leaders representing College Republicans, College Democrats, GreeND, Notre Dame Right to Life and Notre Dames to come together and offer their opinions on all aspects of the immigration issue.

“[The event] turned out great. The reason why is because … people want to have a say in a really important, complex and sometimes confusing issue,” Alex Caton, vice president of BridgeND said. “If the event and the questions that came up during it showed anything, it’s that there are a lot of different angles that should be taken, and by inviting six different clubs to give a take on it, we clearly demonstrated that.” [Editor’s note: Alex Caton is a Viewpoint columnist for The Observer.]

Mark Gianfalla, representing College Republicans, and Tyler Bowen, from College Democrats, both stuck largely to their party platforms in addressing the issue. Gianfalla said the most important aspect of the issue was securing the border, while Bowen said immigrants currently living in America should have a path to citizenship.

“… Those in line to achieve permanent residency should receive priority over those currently in the U.S. illegally,” Gianfalla said.

“Anyone that wants to be an immigrant and enter into American society and can prove that they can do that should be able to, and we should guarantee that,” Bowen said.

However, both agreed the current process for legal immigration in the U.S. is desperately in need of reform. Both wanted an increase in the quota numbers which currently limit immigration into the country. Gianfalla said he thought the number of visas available should increase from its current number of 650,000 to 690,000, and Bowen said streamlining the application process is the one aspect of immigration reform he would most like to see move forward.

Alison Leddy, president of Notre Dames, emphasized the emotional and physical damage many women who immigrate suffer and said legislators should consider additional laws to protect them.

“Often immigration status is what allows domestic violence to occur,” Leddy said. “ … Abuse is often a tool of someone who’s trying to take advantage of women, and without opportunities women have no way to save themselves from a bad situation or report things to the police, so in terms of policy decisions, that’s definitely something to consider.”

Representing the Right to Life club, Kristina Flathers said while immigration may not typically be thought of as an topic related to the right to life movement, it is fundamentally an issue of human dignity, which is related to the mission of the club.

“People migrate in order to create better lives for themselves … societies should be oriented in ways that set up as few obstacles as possible for this to happen,” Flathers said. “And that’s the basis of my proposal. I think we as a society must improve services like childcare and education to immigrants who are already here.”

Garrett Blad, of GreeND, also said environmental issues related to immigration in terms of migration patterns and the ability of disadvantaged people to move away from areas affected by climate change.

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

Contact Greg