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Stony Brook Tackles Complex Immigration Issues in Civil, Respectful Forum

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On Monday, September 18, Stony Brook University presented “Immigration in America,” a community dialogue in which the issue of immigration was discussed in a safe forum among students, faculty, staff and community members. The event was hosted by the Office of the Dean of Students in partnership with Vote Everywhere, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and National Issues Forums and moderated by Steven Adelson, Residence Hall Director and recent SBU alum.

Students participated in thought-provoking dialogue surrounding immigration and discussed different solutions in today’s America.

Given the recent national climate surrounding immigration in the United States and our undocumented immigrant communities, this community dialogue provided an opportunity to come together to better understand these complex issues. The event follows a September 7 on-campus rally, in which students, staff and other members of the campus community voiced their support for the “Dreamers,” whose immigration status is in limbo following the Trump administration’s order to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Facilitators provided students with a background on the topics and were then given three prospective options for handling immigration in the United States going forward, each option complete with a number of proposals and subsequent unintended consequences. Option 1 centered around legislation that would increase, rather than decrease, immigration into the United States and grant citizenship to those already here; Option 2 centered around building the proposed wall along the American-Mexican border and strengthening security and deportation policies; and Option 3 was essentially a middle ground approach that proposed legislation that would address the concerns of both sides.    

180 participants (150 students and 30 facilitators) filled SAC Ballroom A for the event, which was part of a planned series of deliberative dialogues pertaining to civic justice and civic engagement. Attendees were given a number of scenarios and talking points on relevant issues and asked to discuss their opinions in small groups. Participants were asked to remain civil and provide ample time for conflicting views. In events of this nature, sensitive and polarizing issues are discussed in a respectful manner in an open forum in an effort to more completely understand one another’s concerns and propose common-ground resolutions.

Attendees discussed issues in a respectful manner among small groups.

“I felt that the discussion points we had and the avenues we explored were very well written and thought-provoking. My table was full of like-minded people and we agreed on everything, but also had a lot to talk about,” said Lazaro Rivera’20, double majoring in Psychology and English. “I plan on attending similar events in the future, and I feel most people should. These events open up much needed conversation about culturally relevant topics.”

Following the DACA announcement, President Samuel L. Stanley was quick to issue a statement reiterating his full support for DACA and the immigrants affected. “With the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) being rescinded, I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm my unwavering support of the DREAM Act and of DACA, and that I continue to be passionate about these highly successful programs. It is my hope that Congress will act to ensure that DACA remains in effect.”  

“The issues discussed are so important to our country and community, especially since the timing of the event. As Steven (Adelson) mentioned, the discussion was in the works for months, but happened right after Donald Trump’s repeal of DACA,” said Ian Lesnick, Director of Diversity Affairs for the Undergraduate Student Government. Lesnick is a Junior at Stony Brook, a Spanish Language & Literature major and serves as a facilitator for Diversity in America. “Talking out potential solutions or paths the country could go down was an interactive way to better understand the country’s current situation. While not all members of my group agreed throughout the night, they listened to each other’s personal experiences and were able to come to a general consensus by the end.”

Similar community dialogues will take place at Stony Brook throughout the academic year. More updates will be reported as they become available.

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