DAHLONEGA — The flow of ideas spun in different directions on a dicey topic at the University of North Georgia on Wednesday.
Students used their noon lunch hour at the Dahlonega campus to grapple with the dilemma facing the nation after the administration of President Donald Trump rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program two weeks ago. The action means that some 800,000 illegal immigrants brought into the country as minors could be rounded up and deported unless Congress addresses the issue within the next six months.
A few dozen students gathered at Young Hall to take part in the debate on DACA. The program is part of weekly “Crossfire” discussions presented by the UNG Political Science Student Association.
Organizers provided plenty of pizza and cupcakes to keep everyone’s energy level up. Students adamantly defended their point of view — whether conservative, liberal or in varying degrees between the left and right. Eventually, the discussion on DACA trailed off into a broader discussion on immigration.
Students fired off their thoughts on whether a wall on the border with Mexico is necessary, whether illegal immigrants are freeloaders flaunting U.S. laws and whether or not allowing people to come out of the shadows, become citizens and pay taxes would in the long run be less expensive than finding and deporting them.
Bryce Kiepper, a senior, made the case that as a conservative, he’d be willing to meet liberals somewhere in the middle.
“A lot of you have said the wall’s not going to work, it’s a terrible idea,” Kiepper said. “All right, I’m a conservative and I’m saying, I’m willing to work with you on a pathway to citizenship and I’m also willing to re-enshrine DACA, but only until we figure out a way to secure the border. Tell me how we’re going to do that. And tell me, how are we going to control the population of illegals that are currently in the country?”
Tommy Jenkins, a junior on campus, said after the discussion that it sometimes gets heated, but that after the debate everybody is respectful to one another. He’s also friends with people he doesn’t share political views with.
Jenkins said that in the final analysis, the rule of law should prevail over any emotional argument on either side.
“My father’s parents came over here from Germany,” Jenkins said. “They followed all the rules, spent almost eight years trying to get their citizenship and then built a life for themselves so that my family can be successful now. It just makes me think, if you live in a nation of laws, and the law applies equally to me, why should it not apply to somebody who’s already broken the law?”
Kiepper said the debates are always vigorous, but when they’re over nobody gets violent and students “cut up” with each other afterward.
“The biggest thing for me has always been only good things can come out of good, peaceful discussion,” Kiepper said. “Even if one side is extremely right and one side is extremely wrong, both sides are going to know each other’s arguments and their viewpoints are going to get stronger. You get exposed to new ideas.”
Caleb Rudin, a 19-year-old sophomore, said sometimes the debates get a little heated.
“I think the polarization on the two sides is a big problem in this country, especially in this administration,” Rudin said. “I think anytime you can bring an argument to the table that is logical, that is rational, regardless from what side, it adds to the discussion.”
Personally, Rudin said there’s an easy solution to DACA.
“I think we should increase border security and give amnesty to these children who came across the border,” Rudin said. “Not a deferred action program, just amnesty. I think a lot of them are more U.S. citizens than I am. I was born here in Georgia, my parents were born here in Georgia, but I think they are contributing more to the United States to benefit this nation than I am currently. They’re creating jobs.”
Meredith Shea, a junior who is president of the Political Science Student Association, said DACA was not originally on the topic list until later in the semester, but it was moved up because of the recent decisions made by the Trump administration.
“I thought it was a good discussion, but it got a little off topic,” Shea said. “I’m in favor of DACA. I think it’s a great program. Obviously, there’s going to be some issues with legislation.”