Arizona immigration law debate lands on Queens Campus

When Arizona governor Jan Brewer uttered the words “I will now sign State Bill 1070” she reignited the debate over illegal immigration in the United States. On Tuesday Oct. 12 that debate landed on the fourth floor of the D’Angelo Center with the Academic Lecture Series “Arizona Immigration Law Debate”.

The event was moderated by Rev. Jean-Pierre Ruiz S.T.D. a professor in the Department of Theology and Religious here at St. John’s and consisted of four panelist; two who opposed the law and two who were in favor of it.

Panelists Michael Cutler, a former criminal investigator for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Bob Dane, the press secretary and communications director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the nation’s largest immigration reform group, were in favor of the bill.

While Carlos Sandoval, a documentary filmmaker, and Jenny Rivera, director of the Center of Latino and Latina Rights and Equality at CUNY School of Law, opposed it.

The audience consisted of students on both sides of the argument.

Jorge Ortiz III a junior and legal studies major is in favor of SB 1070. He believes it is a step in the right direction. 

“Arizona simply said were not going to wait for this bureaucratic government to get off its butt and help out a situation that’s been dragging our state down, that’s been dragging the southern United States down for the last two and half decades,” said Ortiz.

SB 1070 makes it a crime for immigrants not to carry their documents on them at all times. It also requires local police officers to question people they suspect aren’t in the country legally.

Andrea Rodriguez a junior and legal studies major said her views on the bill shifted after hearing the debate.

“Before the event, I myself, of course was against it because I am Hispanic but after talking to the panelist who were for it now I understand why they feel that way,” said Rodriguez.

SB 1070 wasn’t the only bill up for debate, the recently failed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, better known as the DREAM Act was also part of the heated argument.

In essence the DREAM ACT would provide a path for citizenship for the undocumented youth through the completion of a college degree or three or two years in military service.

“I am always pleased when the work of students is recognized and we encourage people to go to higher education to learn and participate in our society,” said Rivera.

Rivera who advocates the educational side of the DREAM Act opposes the side that implements military service.

Dane countered Rivera’s position saying that the DREAM Act was a form of mass amnesty.

 “Education used to come with a diploma not a green card,” said Dane.

Giovanny Leon a junior and journalism major had this to say about illegal immigration.

“My position on the whole immigration thing is that if your illegal just try to get your papers,” said Leon.