A debate on President Trump’s immigration policies was disrupted by protesters at the University of Pittsburgh.
Protesters donned party hats, played kazoos, and held up small paper signs that had been smuggled into the event which read “no one is ‘illegal,’” “immigrants are not a commodity,” “your debate < someone else’s livelihood,” and “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME ON OUR CAMPUS,” among other slogans.
The debate featured Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the CATO Institute, and Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at Heritage Foundation’s Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, and was hosted by the a coalition of student groups: Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), Students for Liberty (SFL), and College Republicans (CR).
At the beginning of the event, Marlo Safi, the President of the CRs, reminded attendees that it was an event for civil discourse, and asked protesters to “limit your protest or questions to the Q&A sessions at the end.” Of course, this did not happen.
“Both YAL and SFL cherish the ability to speak freely as a fundamental right possessed by all human beings,” Cameron Gill, President for YAL at Pitt, told Red Alert Politics. “Unfortunately this right has come under attack by those seeking to censor speakers who hold differing beliefs from their own.”
During the debate, Nowrasteh argued that, “Every portion of Donald Trump’s immigration plan will negatively impact Americans.” He also said that Trump’s policies are ineffective and an illegitimate expansion of the federal government, with the cost of the border wall being a strong example.
On the other hand, von Spakovsky began by arguing that America was extraordinarily generous to immigrants, taking in roughly one million per year, but that a distinction must be made between legal and illegal immigration.
Elaborating on this point, he said that, “Illegal Immigration… goes against something this country was founded on, which is the rule of law.” He also argued that amnesty would cripple taxpayers by citing a study which found a cost to taxpayers of $6.3 trillion.
The protesters gradually moved outside the hall after each incidence of heckling and collected in front of the William Pitt Union. One woman was arrested during her outburst.
“I’m grateful university security was present because the removal of protesters making loud noises, or shouting at the debaters was appropriate, but I disagreed with removing silent protesters,” Ben Sheppard, President for SFL at Pitt said. “We need to hear both views on an issue presented to see our opponents views and make us stronger advocates for our view.”
Indeed we always need to be open to hearing the other side and embrace honest discourse. Disagreement is inevitable but openness is possible.