This week’s Pizza and Politics event at Southern Utah University’s Leavitt Center discussed immigration in America.
The two presenters, Nikita Polvolskii and Sebastian Zuniga, first went over the history of immigration in the country. They pointed out key events like the first settlers becoming an English colony in 1607 and the large Irish immigration of the 1840s-50s. Polvolskii and Zuniga then discussed the “Big Wave” of southern and eastern European and Asian immigration in the early 1900s that sparked the first federal government regulations on immigration.
Polvolskii and Zuniga stressed how our country’s traditional national values inform how the U.S. handles and regulates immigration, including the desire for the reunification of families; for outside knowledge, skills and ethnic diversity; and to assist people such as refugees who are in difficult circumstances.
They also went over the current process for immigrants to gain citizenship in the U.S., which includes becoming a “Lawful Permanent Resident” with an immigrant visa for five years before applying for citizenship. Other types of long-term visas include those for tourists, foreign students and temporary workers.
Last year, 45.3 million immigrants were living in the U.S., which is the highest number of total immigrants residing in the nation since census records have been kept. However, the percentage of immigrants in the total population has slightly decreased over time from its record-high 14.8% in 1890.
Polvolskii and Zuniga listed potential impacts of U.S. immigration. Positives on their list included economic growth, cultural diversity, innovation and entrepreneurship, while their possible negatives included overpopulation, cultural tensions, crime and a strain on public resources.
They also encouraged audience interaction among attendees, periodically asking questions such as why they think that the number of immigrants has increased so much in recent years and what their opinions are on whether immigration is, in general, good or bad.
One attendant voiced the opinion that, since the world’s population is increasing, the numbers of immigrants is increasing as well. Another student felt that the increasing numbers are largely due to the fact that the U.S. has become a very rich and stable — and therefore appealing — country, as well as that certain states and areas in the U.S. have become much more friendly and welcoming to migrants.
In regards to the value of immigration, all students who voiced their opinions felt favorably toward it in one way or another. One said that all humans deserve empathy and respect, and thus it is important to be compassionate and helpful to those seeking a better life, while another said that one of their favorite things about the U.S. is its cultural diversity, so they would love to see this continue with further immigration. One attendant who voiced their support for immigration did so with a caveat, saying that, while okay with immigration in general, they strongly feel that assimilation is imperative; when someone moves to the U.S., they need to respect their new home and the people already living here and strive to assimilate so they can function well here.
“I feel like I gain more knowledge about policies in the U.S. right now,” said freshman McKell Shumway about why she enjoys attending the Pizza and Politics events. “It’s really fascinating to me how different presidential administrations have their different strengths and weaknesses. For instance, I feel like Biden is better at foreign policy, whereas Trump was better at domestic policy.”
If students of any major are interested in learning about influential events and issues like these, Pizza and Politics is held every Wednesday at noon in the Leavitt Center. There is always a presentation and discussion on some pertinent topic regarding U.S. history and politics led by two of the Leavitt Center’s members, followed by free pizza provided to all participants. Next week’s event will focus on censorship. Further information on the Leavitt Center and its events can be found on their website.
Author and Photographer: Emily Walters
Editor: Chevy Blackburn