The Steamboat Institute and the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization hosted an immigration debate at the University of Colorado Boulder on Thursday, April 13.
The debate was the second stop of the Steamboat Institute’s 2023 Campus Liberty Tour to bring “civilized discourse” and “critical thinking” to college campuses.
During the event, panelists discussed the following statement: “Illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border are increasing at record levels; the U.S. government must secure the border immediately.”
Two panel members argued in favor of this resolution: Julio Rosas, a senior writer for conservative news website Townhall, and Michael Anton, a former national security official for the Trump administration and a research fellow at Hillsdale College.
The other two argued against the resolution: Benjamin Waddell, an associate professor of sociology at Fort Lewis College, and Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist, filmmaker and immigration rights activist.
The event began with an introduction by Chancellor Philip DiStefano and Jennifer Schubert-Akin, the CEO of the Steamboat Institute. Then, the panelists began making their opening statements.
“Tonight, I’ll be making a basic argument,” Waddell said. “Immigration in the United States is a blessing. This is particularly true for the economy.”
“As a nation, we need to remind ourselves that we are getting older,” he said. “I believe that immigration is an opportunity as a result of this.”
In his opening statement against immigration, Anton discussed how the U.S. should consider the interests and well-being of its people, instead of just the economic benefits of immigration.
“I still think that doesn’t obligate us —the fact that we were allegedly a nation of immigrants — to keep the borders open forever or to not secure [them],” Anton said.
Anton repeatedly brought up the importance of a country’s dedication to its own citizens, which he believed should take priority over the needs of immigrants.
In response, Vargas, who is an undocumented immigrant, talked about the contributions of undocumented immigrants to American society.
“I would argue that undocumented immigrants in this country show Americans what true citizenship actually is,” Vargas said.
Later, Rosas talked about the need to discourage border crossings for safety reasons. He described a story he had heard from a border patrol agent about a mother and a child who died while attempting to cross the border. He said they died in an area where border patrol would have been if they hadn’t been busy processing thousands of migrants elsewhere.
“So, it’s not just Americans who are bearing the brunt of this,” Rosas said. “It’s also the migrants. Disincentivizing people to come in this way is the humane approach.”
Audience member Henriette Petersen, a 53-year-old immigrant, said she came to the debate because she was interested in the topic of immigration. She said she wanted to see a debate where people were not “hitting each other on the head.”
“Colleges are historically a place for debate, so I couldn’t imagine a better place,” she said in an interview with the CU Independent.