Photo by Kirsten Reynolds

On Monday afternoon, members from four different political student groups around campus met in the DM Smith lecture hall for the Quad-Partisan Panel.

The groups featured were GT Young Americans for Liberty (representing Libertarians), College Republicans at Georgia Tech, College Democrats of Georgia Tech and Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) Georgia Tech.

Eight students, two from each organization, sat in the front of the room and answered questions fielded by the moderator and audience within the broad topics of immigration, economic policy and foreign policy.

First up was immigration.

The College Republicans, represented by Jacob Chambers, second-year CS, and Brice Edelman, third-year IE, said that while legal immigration provided economic benefits, illegal immigration into the U.S. needed to be stopped. Edelman was receptive to amnesty for undocumented immigrants currently living in the country, but only if the U.S.-Mexico border is completely secured first.

“Once we’ve secured our border,” Edelman said, “then we can look to a path for illegal immigrants who are currently living in the country, you know, as long as they aren’t part of a gang or committed any other heinous crimes that would merit deportation.”

Instead of spending money to double down on border security, YDSA, represented by Nikhil Pailoor, a graduate ECE, and Sumter Alton, second-year PHYS/MATH, thought the border problem could be solved through strengthening Mexico.

“Secure borders require prosperous countries, and a border has two countries on both sides,” Pailoor said. “We would like to work with Mexico to bring stability to the areas there and reduce the incentives for immigration, so we support assisting Mexico in development and fighting the cartels there. ”

The Libertarians, represented by Jackson Morgan, fifth-year CM, and Thomas Wang, second-year CHBE, pushed against the idea of using government funds to support economic programs directed toward Mexican citizens. Instead, they argued border friction should be removed altogether by making it as easy as possible for people to immigrate.

“The big concern I’m seeing here is the fact that everyone thinks that government is the only solution,” Morgan said. “Opening up quotas and letting the free market decide where people go gives people the maximum freedom and can enhance the country the most.”

When asked by Pailoor if he believed all foreign aid stimulus programs fail, despite the success of the Marshall Plan after World War II, Morgan stumbled slightly, describing the Marshall Plan as an exception because it was a “military policy.”

The Marshall Plan provided large economic aid to European countries to purchase goods as well as funds for reconstruction.

The College Democrats, represented by Justin Deal, second-year PUBP, and Chaselyn Baca, third-year CS, spoke for relatively less time during the discussion phase of immigration policy, but specifically questioned the Republicans’ motives for supporting Trump’s proposed merit-based system. Deal worried a merit-based system could exclude qualified applicants who nonetheless do not meet the standard.

“If it’s similar to Trump’s merit-based plan, even I couldn’t be an American citizen,” Deal said.

The discussion of refugees proved a segue for the conversation into discussing the topic of economic foreign policy. The Republicans justified the record reductions in the number of Middle Eastern refugees by citing that the threat of terror meant that the modern sociopolitcal situation is not analogous to previous refugee crises that have
taken place.

“We’re talking about people traveling across, you know, the Atlantic Ocean, all the way past the Mediterranean and to the United States, from a completely different background, and a completely different system,” Chambers said.

Instead, Chambers supported relocating refugees to countries within the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia.

When asked about the definition of economic success, the different political groups presented different answers. While the Libertarians and Republicans said that each member of society needs to determine their own answer, the Democrats said there was some value in looking at aggregate measures.

“Like the Republicans said, we need to make sure that everyone has a basic standard of living, everyone’s fed,” Deal said, “but more than just making sure, we need to actually make sure it’s implemented. We can’t just look at stats like wealth disparity, and income inequality, and stuff like that, and take note of it. There has to be active policies.”

While, by the end, no group had shifted their position by a large margin, the panel ended on a positive note, with multiple panel members expressing that they would enjoy doing a similar panel again.