By Alyssa Melillo 

The state of the U.S. economy and the current issue on immigration were the topics of a debate between the Stony Brook College Democrats and College Republicans on April 5.

Speakers Brian Lee and Adam Peck for the College Democrats defended President Obama’s economic policies, stressing that there is progress in the nation’s recovery from the recession. “We’ve seen stability in home marketing and reduction in unemployment,” Lee said. “There’s considerable signs of growth in the economy.”

Peck discussed the President’s 2009 stimulus bill and said it did help many U.S. citizens, despite criticism from Republicans.

“The stimulus bill did create a lot of jobs for people who needed them,” Peck said. “You can’t deny the stimulus package…did have an incredible impact on the middle class.”

“We’re heading in the right direction,” he said. “I don’t think anyone expected Obama to resolve our economic problems in two years and three months.”

Jonathan Pu, a speaker for the College Republicans, pointed out the dramatic increase in national debt since President Obama took office. The jump from the $9 trillion in debt when President Bush was in office to the current $14 trillion under President Obama is not a sign of a true economic recovery, Pu said. However, he did agree with Peck on one thing:

“I absolutely would suggest we’re heading in the right direction for the first time in a while,” he said.

Aditya Ramanathan, the second speaker for the College Republicans, argued that the increase in U.S. citizens’ credit is a reason that the nation is not really recovering from the recession yet.

“We’ve seen a giant jump in credit,” he said. “People are taking more loans out than ever before. We’re not looking at a true recovery.

“In fact, we’re worse than we were in 2008,” he added. Ramanathan said that at this rate, the nation could face a double-dip recession. “We’ve been trying to fill a hole, but we’ve run out of dirt to fill it,” he said. Peck agreed on the possibility of a second recession, but suggested that President Obama should pass a second stimulus bill to prevent it.

Although both parties displayed different views on the nation’s economy, they both agreed on what the government needs to do to prevent illegal immigration: crack down on employers hiring them.

“We have to enforce the laws we have on employers,” Ramanathan said. “We [also] need to have a stable relationship with Mexico…so Mexicans can work for American [companies] in Mexico.”

“If the police and FBI [enforce the laws]…we will see less immigration,” Pu said.

The Democrats agreed. “The crisis we have creates a tiered system where legal immigrants are competing with illegal immigrants [for jobs],” Lee said. He pointed out that most illegal immigrants come to the U.S. for jobs as part of a pathway to develop citizenship. Ultimately, though, both parties agreed that the government should create more ways for illegal immigrants to become legal citizens. They both referred to the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide permanent residency to alien students who graduated high school, which a Senate filibuster blocked in December. Both parties also agreed that amnesty, simply allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country, is not a solution.

“Unfortunately, the immigration debate in our country is very different [from] the one in this room,” Peck said, referring to the debate in Washington about excluding illegal immigrants from the education system and whether or not they should receive hospital care.

While the winner of the debate was not determined by the moderators, Kevin Sabella, founder and president of the Stony Brook Tea Party, said he believed the College Democrats and College Republicans fairly “covered what they’re for.” However, he believed that they didn’t focus enough on the constitutionality of the laws and issues at hand. “The constitution should take precedent in those issues,” he said.

The Stony Brook Speech and Debate Society, which hosted and moderated the debate, implemented a voting system that allowed audience members to vote for which party they felt won the debate by sending a text message to a provided number. Rachel Clark, a member of the College Democrats, moderated the voting system for the first half of the debate but said no votes came in. Huma Ashraf, treasurer of the College Democrats, moderated the votes for the remainder of the debate, but could not be reached for the results.