Encouraged by vocal audience members, members of Cornell’s Forensics Society argued over the justification behind the 600-mile fence along the American and Mexican border on Friday. The wall was constructed as a result of the multi-billion dollar Secure Border Initiative launched by the United States in 2005 to curtail illegal immigration.
Each two-person team argued for or against the fence, also referred to as “the wall,” in front of an audience mostly of students.
Alex Bores ’13 and Ryan Yeh ’13 spoke against the fences, arguing that the only way to curb illegal immigration is to alleviate poverty in Mexico and thus reduce the incentive to cross the border.
Bores said the real debate is not whether the U.S. should have a fence, but whether it has an obligation to aid other countries.
“Our slogan goes: ‘Give me your tired, weak and hungry,’” Bores said. “Not ‘your most economically developed citizens.’”
On the other side, Kirat Singh ’14 expressed concern that Mexican immigrants would not adapt sufficiently to the American economy.
Mexican immigrants are fundamentally different than previous generations of immigrants because there is less demand for their skills in modern society, Singh said.
Singh and his partner, Srinath Reddy ’14, argued the U.S. would be better served spending its resources on citizens suffering in poverty-stricken communities in the U.S.
“Illegal immigrants only make things worse for legal immigrants,” Singh said. “The wall allows us to focus on those who already have citizenship and suffer.”
Sponsored by the Forensics Society, Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity and Sociedad de Debate en Español de Cornell, the debate consisted of two teams of mock debaters.
Throughout the event, audience members were encouraged to bang on the sides of their chairs as a way to support what a speaker said. Some audience members said that they appreciated the points made by proponents of the wall, even if they personally opposed it.
“Just because you agree with a side doesn’t mean the other side doesn’t have a valid point,” said Oscar Correia ’14, who attended the debate.
Correa voiced his stance against the fence in the question-and-answer session that followed the debate.
“Everything isn’t always black or white,” he said. “The fact that both sides had valid arguments is proof of that.”
Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly reported the name of one of the students quoted. His nameis Oscar Correia, not Alex Correa.