The University of Southern Mississippi Center for Human Rights and Civil Liberties hosted a forum on immigration Wednesday, Feb. 15 to examine current issues facing immigrants in the United States.
The forum, co-sponsored by the Southern Miss Muslim Student Association and the USM Speech and Debate Team, examined all sides – including the legal battles and implications – of the recent executive order made by President Donald Trump that bans immigration from seven Muslim -majority nations. Director of Political Science Robert Press, two Iranian faculty members, several Muslim students and the USM Speech and Debate Team overviewed the discussion.
“We moved out here because we wanted to have a better life,” said Assistant Professor of Economics and Iranian faculty member Hadise Tavana. “With everything going on now, we’re not sure what may happen to us in the next few years.”
Tavana was joined by Adjunct Instructor of Economics Mehdi Barati, who is also an Iranian faculty member. They spoke about their lives in Iran and why they chose to move to the United States.
Individuals asked questions regarding immigrants’ feelings about the state of the US.
Tavana said they will now have to take precautions because of Donald Trump’s executive order and the impact it will have on their lives.
“We are safe for three years, and we just hope by then, the Senate will take over and release these plans and stop this from occurring,” Tavana said. “We have to secure our lives here in the United States.”
After the faculty members gave their insight on living in America as an immigrant, the USM Speech and Debate Team looked at both sides of the executive order.
Junior Polymer Science student and debate team member Mason Dearborn was selected to argue on why the executive order is supported by some people in the country.
“I split the debate up to focus mainly on its legality and the statistical evidence that the order is for the best interest of the nation, for instance national security,” he said.
Junior communication studies and history major and debate team member Johnathan Bridenbaker was selected to argue on why the executive order is not supported by some people in the country.
In his debate he said the order circumvented legal boundaries, upsets checks and balances and does not respect the most basic systems of government.
“It’s something that we as a nation shouldn’t endorse,” Bridenbaker said. “We shouldn’t endorse closing people off, sending people away and detaining them arbitrarily. We need to have a country that is welcomed to all individuals, regardless of race, nationality and religion.”
The USM Speech and Debate Team members said that the objective of the debate was not to overcome media biases but to present an informative case on people’s differing opinions on the executive order.
“I think it’s great for people to decide on what they want after listening to both sides,” Dearborn said. “Normally, people only really get to hear what they want to hear.”
Once the debate was completed, Press opened the discussion to questions from the audience. Press helped provide answers from a political science sense but encouraged the attendants to think about the questions themselves and form their own opinions.
This forum was one of the “Human Rights Week” discussions being held this month. “Human Rights Week,” hosted by The Student Government Association will continue from Feb. 20 – 24.
Other events include the Human Rights Fair on Monday, #IAMHuman Tuesday, Social Justice Day Wednesday, Thursday there will be a movie screening of “13th” and “The Wheel of Rights” game day on Friday.