‘American Immigration Debate’ ignites conversation among students, community

The WHS Junior States of America Club hosted a debate about American immigration from 4:30-5:30 Jan. 3  in the Chap room. The club, led by junior Surya Zutshi, focuses on educating and informing students on current domestic events and sharing different perspectives.

“The entire officer corps was involved in advertising the event,” Surya said. “The club members reached out to other schools in the Austin area and invited them to attend. Mr. Gaslow, our teacher sponsor, reserved the Chap room and dealt with the administrative work. My job was to secure the speakers for the event.”

Surya says the event was organized to address the current political split over the Mexico-U.S. border that is felt among even students at Westlake.

“In today’s political climate, people are more divided than ever,” Surya said. “One topic that really polarizes America is the immigration debate. We thought this would be a great time to really act on the discussions we have in meetings.”

The meeting consisted of speakers Donna Howard, the State Representative in the 48th district, and Travis County GOP Chairman Matthew Mackowiak. Daron Shaw, a political science professor at the University of Texas, acted as a mediator between the two parties.

The debate opened with a presentation of statistics from Shaw. On top of being a professor at UT, Shaw also conducts the Fox News Poll. He said that while most Texans think border security is an important issue, fewer support the wall because they view it as a direct endorsement of President Donald Trump. This information opened up the discussion between Howard and Mackowiak.

Republican Mackowiak explained the need for stronger border security. As a more moderate Republican, he said that a complete wall would be impractical and 200 miles of wall would be sufficient in securing the border.

Howard, a Democrat, refuted Mackowiak’s claim that the solution for the border problem is stronger border security and regulation. She explained that the government needs to take direct action to help the people currently at the border.

Both Howard and Mackowiak agreed that DREAMers need to be protected, and that the current immigration system is in urgent need of reform.

After giving their speeches, Mackowiak, Howard and Shaw opened up the floor to questions from the audience ― a mix of Westlake students, parents and members of the community.

“I thought it was interesting,” junior Layna Fultz said. “I’m glad they brought statistics to the table. It helped to show that most people really do want more border security, but neither side can agree on where to start.”

The last question of the debate came from an elementary school-aged girl in the audience who questioned why people wanted to leave their homes to immigrate to America. Mackowiak responded by explaining that America should welcome immigrants who have passed the proper background checks.

Howard followed up by reciting the poem “Home” by Warsan Shire, supporting the idea that the U.S. should be a refuge for those fleeing danger.

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark,” Howard quoted. “You only leave home when home won’t let you stay.”