Students Deliberate Immigration in Patchogue

12 Oct

Students at Patchogue High School discussed the important topic of immigration last Tuesday, collaboratively addressing a host of issues that arise when seeking common ground on this controversial topic.

In the personal stake portion of the forum, many students expressed their concerns over the ill feelings people in their community and across the country have towards immigrants.  One participant stated, “Immigrants come seeking better lives, but often encounter negative [sentiments] from Americans.”  Another added, “People don’t focus on this good things that immigrants have done.”  Others brought up some of the economic concerns expressed throughout the country: “In a tough economy, those who are out of work resent immigrants who have jobs” and “Americans get laid off when immigrants will work for lower wages.”

After much deliberation, 12 of the 19 students agreed that there should be a path to citizenship for those who entered the United States without the proper documentation.  Of the remaining seven, some were unsure about what to do and others were still adamantly opposed to said path, “I’m concerned about rewarding people with a path to citizenship who have acted illegally.”

When discussing the protection of American borders, several students expressed grave concerns over the Arizona law, while others did not see a problem with it.  One participant had no issue being asked for his papers/being stopped by the police for no reason, indicating that if it is for the good of the country he was fine with it: “Cops pull people over for no reason all the time; I see no problem with that.” Several students chimed in, indicating that their peer’s reaction to the Arizona law was “different because of his skin and gender privilege as a white male.”  Some students feared wide spread identity theft if everyone was required to carry the precious documents most people lock in a safe, while others believed this law “detracts from the U.S. as a nation of opportunity” and is “legal racial discrimination.”

More common ground was found when approaching the topic of immigration through an economic framework.  Seventy-five percent of participants favored jobs for the most qualified candidate, irrespective of citizenship: “We should have competition for who is best suited for jobs, not favoring Americans over immigrants.”  Many students agreed, adding: “The U.S. is declining in science and math; look how much immigrants like Einstein have helped the U.S.” and “Give citizenship to people who can help us.”

Below is a snapshot of the sentiments of participants after the forum on both the topic and the process of deliberative discussion.

“I found out that I am not the only person who thinks my way. This forum gave me lots more to think about.”

“Hearing lots of other views makes my understanding more effective.”

I often feel frustrated when I hear other people’s opinions that aren’t the same as mine, but this kind of discussion expands understanding.”

“This is good – and unusual – to hear such a range of views.”

“I loved this discussion; it was different from most discussions.”

“When this discussion started, I was for strict border control, but now I am more responsive to the experiences of immigrants.”

“There is real value in listening to the opinions of others.”

“I also began favoring stricter border controls, but now I see lots of other aspects of the issue.”

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One Response to “Students Deliberate Immigration in Patchogue”


  1. Rita-Marie Murphy on Immigration Forum « Deepening Democracy Through Deliberation - November 2, 2012

    […] Murphy graciously invited our Democracy Fellows into her classroom at Patchogue High School to moderate a forum on immigration earlier this month.  Below are her thoughts on the forum and […]

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