Immigration debate hosted by law school

  • A debate on immigration was held in the Alumni Memorial Union Tuesday
  • Author and immigration scholar Mark Krikorian argued that all immigration is harmful
  • Marquette associate immigration law professor Ed Fallone argued in favor of immigration

Experts presented two sides of the debate on United States immigration policy at a discussion in the Alumni Memorial Union Tuesday.

The debate featured Mark Krikorian, author of the book "The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal," in which Krikorian makes the claim that all immigration is detrimental to the United States and should be limited substantially. Krikorian is also the executive director of the non-partisan Center for Immigration Studies. Ed Fallone, associate immigration law professor, debated Krikorian.

The two speakers presented separate addresses at the debate, hosted by the law school's Federalist Law Society and Hispanic Law Student Association.

Krikorian's central argument was that while immigration was appropriate and beneficial to society a couple hundred years ago, it does not have a place in modern society.

"Mass immigration is incompatible with the goals and characteristics of a modern society in a way that wasn't true (in the past)," Krikorian said.

The main problem immigrants pose for the economy, according to Krikorian, is that the majority arrives with very few work skills and are unable to significantly increase their skills, which creates "a recipe for a new underclass."

Krikorian contended that immigrants' lack of skills leads them to rely on government services, such as welfare, far more than other Americans.

"In a modern society, a person with a low level of education is going to be a net consumer of tax money," he said.

Krikorian identified problems with the ability of immigrants to assimilate into their new country. He said the capability of modern-day technology to connect immigrants with family members in their home country means that it is easier for immigrants to come to America while still retaining many of the same traditions and connections to their home country. That means immigrants today are assimilating much less than in the past, he said.

Krikorian recommended that immigration caps be established based on specific groups, such as highly skilled workers or immigrants fleeing humanitarian crises.

Fallone then offered a rebuttal to several of Krikorian's points.

On the matter of the economy, Fallone contended that it would in fact be worse off if immigrants were suddenly eliminated as a labor source. A substitute source willing to work for the same wages would be difficult to find, he said.

"Even if they wanted to hire native-born workers, where are (employers) going to get the money?" Fallone said.

Krikorian argued that this labor loss would be offset by technological advancements, but Fallone said no advancements could realistically bring these benefits as quickly as Krikorian claimed.

Fallone also argued that the flow of legal immigrants strengthens the social security system, because most who immigrate are young and able to work for many decades to come.

Additionally, Fallone noted that many states with high rates of immigration have not experienced any sort of economic drain, suggesting that a prevalence of immigrants does not have a negative economic impact.

"Immigration is a net positive on an economic basis," Fallone said.

Audience response to the debate was mixed. Peter O'Meara, a second year law student, was dissatisfied with Krikorian's take on immigration.

"I think he tended to ignore the human aspect of immigration," O'Meara said. "(He) seemed to take a much more sterile … view of it."

Jason Decent, also a second year law student, showed appreciation for the viewpoints presented.

"I think it's good for us to have the debate and be able to explore the issue from both sides," Decent said.