Topic Analysis: December 2013

2013 December Topic
Resolved: Immigration reform should include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

Well, one great thing about this topic is that there are innumerable sources out there for you to cite. There is a heated political debate going on concerning immigration reform.

That doesn’t mean this will be an easy topic. 

There is a heavy bias to the affirmative because the political momentum is behind immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. There is general public support for the measure. Unless you are in a very right-leaning area of the country, affirmative has an inherent edge in December. This is important to acknowledge as you write your cases, but moreover as you do a coin flip for each debate. Know your judging pool and know which side is strategically stronger for you to debate.

As far as general topic analysis, see the following websites:

New York Times Topic Section on Immigration

PICO – Pro immigration reform

* Some groups in support of immigration reform call it a “pathway to citizenship”, not a path to citizenship. This is important to know for effective search terms while you research.

White House Issue Page

* The White House refers to the path to citizenship as “earned citizenship” – a nice turn of phrase the Affirmative side may want to adopt in the debate.’s Background Information

For my part, I want to discuss how we discuss immigration. There is a lot of propaganda, a lot of incorrect and inhumane language regarding the topic, and misinformation. Here you’ll find some background to help you avoid the pitfalls of politically driven conversation about immigration.

Immigration is one of the defining issues of our domestic policy, despite the lack of immigration reform in recent times. Between 7 million and 20 million undocumented immigrants are estimated to be living in the United States but the nature of illegal immigration makes the exact number be unknown.  There are an estimated half million illegal entries into the United States each year. The majority of the illegal immigrants are from Mexico. There are no exact statistics on the undocumented population because they are undocumented. Do not demand exact figures during the debate on this.

Here are some key terms you need to understand to speak about immigration correctly:

Immigrate: to come into a country of which one is not a native for permanent residence

Emigrate: to leave one’s place of residence or country to live elsewhere

Immigrant: a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence

Illegal immigrant – not a technically correct term – a term the media and politicians have adopted but in legal terms, does not make sense. The correct terminology includes:

Illegal alien, Undocumented alien, undocumented immigrant, or undocumented person

I suggest using the resolution’s word choice of undocumented immigrant.

Alien: a foreign-born resident who has not been naturalized and is still a subject or citizen of a foreign country; broadly : a foreign-born citizen

“illegals”: not a term for a human being nor a term you should use to discuss undocumented immigrants. Illegal means not according to or authorized by law, it does not refer to a person.

More terminology can be found in Chapter 11 of the e-Study Guide for: American Public Policy : Introduction on Google Books.



People become undocumented immigrants in one of three ways:

1. by entering without authorization or inspection (ie border crossing)

2. by staying beyond the authorized period after legal entry (ie visa overstay)

3. by violating the terms of legal entry (ie visa fraud)

Immigration policy has been crucial since the founding of the United States and is a periodic source of conflict.  Recent decades have seen the largest immigration waves since the 1920s. The Federal government has been trying to pass immigration reform since 2005 – unsuccessfully to boot. A variety of reforms have been proposed under both Republican and Democratic leadership. You may be surprised to find that President George W. Bush for three years pushed for a bipartisan bill before giving up in 2007. There has been no significant movement toward federal immigration reform (until now) since a bipartisan effort died in 2007, blocked by conservative opposition. In 2008-2010 many states began to pass their own restrictive immigration policies, some of which have been struck down by the judiciary. After this fever of state legislation, President Obama suggested in May 2011 that he was prepared to make it an issue in the coming presidential campaign. However, it is important to know that the Obama administration did not make a push for comprehensive legislation during its first two years and instead focused on a stepped-up campaign of deportation, with nearly 400,000 immigrants removed a year in 2009 and in 2010. The Obama administration has pursued an aggressive strategy that relies significantly on programs started by his predecessor, President Bush.

Immigration reform is a hot topic now, but it has a long history you should be aware of while researching and writing cases. People carry many misconstrued notions about immigration, so plan on educating yourself and your judges about the facts of immigration and not simply the politics.

Good luck as you begin preparing for December tournaments.



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