Is immigration an overall benefit, or burden to society? That’s was the central question posed at the 2019 Arthur N. Rupe debate at UC Santa Barbara. Rubén Rumbaut, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at UC Irvine, takes the position that immigration is not only good, but necessary for the success of the United States. Taking the stance that immigration needs to be scaled back and tightly controlled is Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a controversial organization that has been designated an anti-immigrant hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The participants began by laying out their visions for the hallmarks of good immigration policy. Rumbaut leans heavily on the ideas that the population of the United States is aging, fewer children are being born, and our pension and social security systems will fall into crisis without an influx of new workers. Thus, he argues immigration is necessary to prop up those systems, strengthen the labor force, and repopulate shrinking towns across the country. Krikorian’s central idea is the polar opposite. He argues the United States is in good shape, and has no need for new immigration. Therefore, he says immigration policy should seek to have a net zero impact on the economy. He proposes updating the system to only accept immediate family members of current US citizens, and set the bar for skilled immigration to “Einstein” levels, meaning only people at the top of their fields.
Both debaters address several aspects of immigration policy, from big picture concepts like measuring success, to details such as how many people from any given group should be granted citizenship each year. While their differences of opinion are clear throughout the debate, they do find agreement on one issue: the current long-term population of undocumented immigrants in the United States should be granted amnesty.
With a topic as complex and divisive as immigration, it is not surprising to see more disagreement than agreement. But, finding some common ground is essential if any real progress is to be made. Whatever your stance, this debate provides some insight into the other side of the argument.