SG hosts student debate

Members of College Democrats, College Republicans square off on policies, issues of election year

On March 24, the UTD College Democrats and College Republicans came together to discuss a variety of hot button topics in a debate hosted by the Legislative Affairs Committee of Student Government.

International political economy senior Tessa McGlynn, psychology and child learning and development senior Maham Tirmizi and computer science sophomore Christian Briggs represented the UTD Democrats at the debate.

On the other side, historical studies and political science senior Robby Dube, political science senior Erick Bruno and political science and economics junior Patrick Wilson represented the College Republicans.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs Matthew Polze, interdisciplinary junior Nyemike Okonkwo and business administration junior Christian Filsouf served as moderators.

The three most divisive topics at the debate were the fight against terrorism, gun control and immigration reform.

The College Republicans and UTD Democrats disagreed on whether or not the Muslim community should be held responsible for the actions of their radical counterparts.

The Republicans argued that more local involvement is needed, as well as reform, in the Department of Homeland Security. They also advocated for citizen vigilance against potential terror attacks and “ending the fear campaign on guns.” Representing the Republicans, Wilson said Muslims need to do more to fight against terrorism.

“We need to hold the Muslim community and Muslim countries accountable. I say that because whites have to address the problem of racism and Mexicans must address the problem of drug cartels,” he said.

The Democrats disagreed that Muslims should be responsible for radical groups. They also criticized Republican frontrunners Ted Cruz and Donald Trump for hate-filled speech toward Muslims and refugees.

“You say end the fear campaign on guns, we say end the fear campaign on Muslims,” McGlynn said.

The debate then shifted to discussing gun regulation, particularly in response to the frequent mass shootings in schools and theaters. Both clubs agreed that guns need to be given to responsible citizens, but differed on gun regulation.

The Democrats stuck with their party’s stance on banning the sale of assault rifles. They also said that decreasing the number of guns available to citizens would lower the rates of homicide and suicide.

The Republicans said strict regulations would hurt law-abiding citizens, not the law-breakers. They also strongly advocated for protecting the second amendment in the Constitution.

The Democrats criticized Republicans for being “beholden” to the National Rifle Association’s bidding because they contribute large amounts of money to help candidates get elected. McGlynn said groups like these keep candidates from passing comprehensive gun reform legislation.

Dube responded by saying all candidates answer to some kind of interest group, and the National Rifle Association is no different.

“What the NRA believes is that Americans have a right to own a gun, and when they see a politician that supports that, they’re going to support that politician,” he said.

The UTD Democrats and College Republicans found common ground when the discussion shifted to the immigration crisis. They both agreed immigrants should be allowed into the country and reforms are needed to allow an easier pathway to citizenship.

The Republicans began by drawing a clear line between their policies and Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s ideas. They continued by proposing more border patrol agents to create “a human wall” against undocumented citizens and a path to permanent status for those already in the country.

Permanent status differs from citizenship by allowing immigrants to work in the country without receiving benefits, such as the right to vote and social security.

Although the College Republicans rejected Trump, the UTD Democrats said the entire Republican Party had hateful language toward the Latino communities and that their rhetoric is dehumanizing.

“A lot of these immigrants come here illegally because they’re trying to leave horrors of their own country,” Tirmizi said. “I think punishing them is wrong because this is the United States of America and (few) of us can say that our parents are Native Americans.”

Other issues brought to the table included healthcare, affirmative action and student debt. A winner was not announced at the debate, but both parties concluded on a note of thanks for the audience’s interest.

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