Matheteis Forum Hosts Immigration Talk

by Rachel Pledger '07

More than 35 students attended the year's first Matheteis Forum on immigration issues and policies September 26 from 5:30-8 p.m. The Matheteis Forum is a monthly dinner and discussion intended to raise student awareness of current social justice issues. Panelists discuss many dynamics of an issue, take questions from guests, and ultimately conjecture the appropriate Christian response.

After dinner, Gideon Kigan opened ceremonies with a brief salutation and prayer, and then handed the floor over to the evening's moderator Arthur Atkinson, who introduced the discussion panel. The panel consisted of four members: Jennifer Walsh, Ph.D. and associate professor of political science; Bryan Lamkin, Ph.D. and associate professor of history; alumnus Daniel French, an active immigration rights advocate; and alumnus Antonia Rivera, a Mexican immigrant, and member of the Orange County Dream Team, an organization seeking to reform U.S. immigration policy.

Walsh opened discussions in response to the problem of immigration in the United States, stating that the House of Representatives and the Congressional Senate have, for many years, created a stalemate in terms of policy-making. Each power is motivated by separate interests, and until they can come to a point of cooperation, laws concerning immigration may continue to stagnate.

"There is a struggle going on between the Senate and the House," French said. "It’s about who’s going to look admirable, like they are taking care of business."

Immigration has changed in contemporary times. Where once the United States voiced concern over the influx of Asian and Eastern European immigrants, the issue is now Hispanic immigration. "We have such great wealth now and we’ve turned this wealth into a series of entitlement programs. The economic attraction to the U.S. has grown in the past 30-40 years," said Walsh. In consequence, the United States has seen the largest percent of immigration in history, and the growth of illegal immigration.

"Illegal immigration is a fairly present day, ever-present problem," said Lamkin. "If you feel there is a benefit to a particular land, you’ll want to pursue that land."

The panelists agreed that solutions were necessary, but yet indeterminate. As Christians, Lamkin argued, there are two behaviors to consider. First, "Christians are to treat the alien, stranger, sojourner with hospitality and kindness," and second, "the alien, sojourner, stranger, is to abide by the laws of the Israelites," said Lamkin. "There is a mutual responsibility."