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What’s Not Debatable – the Humanity of Immigrants and Refugees

An 8-year-old immigrant child cries as she talks about being separated from her father during a family separation protest.
Image credit to Ross D. Franklin of the Associated Press.

As national immigration policy horrifies us, our students debate immigration with respect and dignity

This summer the MN Urban Debate League will host over 100 middle and high school students at Augsburg University to learn about the 2018-19 school year debate topic – Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its restrictions on legal immigration to the United States.

Students will dig into this complicated question – to examine everything from opening the border completely, to re-evaluating H1B visas, to DACA. They will debate both sides of the resolution, as they critically examine the evidence – questioning their instructors, their camp teammates, and their own opinions on the topic.

What they won’t debate is the full humanity, inherent dignity, and worth of the people who wish to come to the United States – whether that is through the asylum process, existing legal immigration pathways, or those whose status is undocumented.

The MN Urban Debate League believes that each of the more than 800 children who are in our program – whether they were born here, or across the globe, are amazing. Our students are bright, talented, and looking for the opportunity to learn and grow. We will affirm their worth, and support them as they seek their own truth through inquiry and research. We will work together to build an educational community that values all students, so that our children will know that while we discuss policy issues, this does not mean that their value as people within our community is up for debate.

The current presidential administration’s approach to immigration reform, particularly its policy to separate children at the border from their parents is unconscionably cruel and inhumane. It has been declared such by multiple faith leaders, legal scholars, and leaders from both political parties. We know based on the research of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that this trauma will be incredibly difficult for children to recover from – and will impact their education, health, and forever future. This is particularly true for children younger than three, whose brains are still developing. Horrifyingly, the AP is reporting that three “tender age shelters” for children younger than five, are being used; there is also a plan to build a fourth.

It is absolutely possible to have a full and rigorous debate about immigration reform, and to do so without bigoted rhetoric. I know this is true, because I am watching 65 middle school students do it this week.  Let’s follow our students’ lead and demand more of all our civic leaders. We are hearing early news reports that it is possible, family separation may be discontinued. Until it is clear that a humane solution is reached, please keep calling your federal representatives – house and senate – and make your voice heard.

–Amy, Executive Director