The Trinity University Forensics Society and The Contemporary, a student-run public affairs journal, co-hosted a public debate last Wednesday in which students debated different stances on immigration reform.
Two teams of two students each were involved in the debate. Isaiah Mitchell and Maddie Dâ€™iorio represented Tigers for Liberty, and Travis Boyd and Catherine Walters represented Trinity Progressives.
William Mosley-Jensen, assistant professor and director of debate, explained how the debate came about.
â€œThe Trinity University Forensics Society (TUFS), which is the student organization that the debate team is affiliated with, kind of generated this idea to do the debate,â€ Mosley-Jensen said. â€œI think that having a public debate really can provide different perspectives on an issue that is easily politicized. Itâ€™s easy to have a passionate, perhaps ingrained view on immigration, that we learn from our families or the media. One of the things that [debate] does is provide an avenue for an objective, civil dialogue where there are two different sides to an issue.â€
Mosley-Jensen hopes that students at the debate were able to gain a greater understanding of ideas related to immigration.
â€œImmigration issues are complex and not always subject to a simple answer,â€ Mosley-Jensen said. â€œThere are real people involved, too. DACA and other immigration reform policies are very close to home here in San Antonio. A lot of the people watching or participating probably know people who are subject to DACA. Having a vital, civil discourse on campus is one of the things that I think is really important for politics, especially now in our current, contemporary political environment. I think debate provides us with an avenue and an opportunity to engage issues in a well-researched and civil manner.â€
Mitchell, a sophomore English and Latin double major, was excited to be able to have a public debate about immigration reform.
â€œIâ€™m on the debate team, and Iâ€™m the only one on the debate team whoâ€™s in Tigers for Liberty (TFL), of which Iâ€™m co-president,â€ Mitchell said. â€œWeâ€™ve been bouncing around the idea of public debates on campus where students can have these debates in a setting thatâ€™s conducive to it â€” unemotional, but still friendly. Thereâ€™s been a lot of enthusiasm from TFL and from the Trinity debate team for a while.â€
Mitchell explained that the debate team felt it deeply important to address relevant issues and that his goal was to shed light on the conservative position.
â€œOur main goal is really to showcase what we feel is a misunderstood position,â€ Mitchell said. â€œThereâ€™s diversity on the right. Weâ€™re trying to demonstrate that our position is not racially motivated or xenophobic, but just motivated by the rule of law and safety and concern for citizens. Itâ€™s not necessarily new in terms of ideology, but it will be new to a lot of people on this campus.â€
Mitchell hoped that people came away from the debate with more respect for the intellectual ideals of conservative positions on immigration and viewed them as policy-based arguments.
Walters, a senior political science major, was one of the representatives for Trinity Progressives in the debate. She reflected on the debate a few days after it took place.
â€œThere was a great turnout and everyone in the audience was fairly engaged with the discussion,â€ Walters wrote in an email interview. â€œBoth sides came with well-formed and focused arguments. Â Each debate partner really brought different skills to the debate.â€
Walters was excited to see the amount of student interest, especially during the question and answer session at the end of the debate.
â€œTowards the end of the debate, it appeared as though more people wanted to further discuss the issue,â€ Walters wrote. â€œImmigration is an incredibly complex issue, so we did not have sufficient time to completely cover the entire topic. For that reason, I would love to continue this discussion in later Trinity Progressive events on campus. I hope that students left understanding the complexity of the immigration issue.â€
Mitchell and Walters both expressed hope for similar discussions to take place in the future.