By Grace Dille
UMD College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty tackled issues including immigration and foreign aid during a debate March 15 in Jimenez Hall.
Gideon Epstein, events director for non-partisan group Maryland Discourse, moderated the debate, and the opposing teams were represented by three students each.
“While the GOP is primarily a conservative party, we do have several strong libertarian voices that help contribute to our party and make it stronger,” College Republicans President Steven Clark said.
During the debate, Clark argued that foreign aid is useful for “many different reasons,” including building relations with and supporting other countries.
“We do need to crack down on corruption,” said Clark, a junior government and politics major. “But we also use foreign aid to advance the U.S. interest — whether that’s peace in the region, [or] whether it’s prosperity and trying to build up trade relationships.”
The Young Americans for Liberty representatives disagreed, arguing that foreign aid leads to other countries becoming too dependent on the United States.
“I don’t think it’s an effective means of diplomacy,” said Yusuf Mahmood, an economics and philosophy double major. “Trade is always the best means of diplomacy. When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”
Immigration led to another controversial debate topic. Both groups agreed that an easier process should exist for people who want to come into the United States legally, but students representing the College Republicans were adamant about securing the United States’ borders rather than opening them.
“Americans need to look out for their citizens first by not allowing open borders,” said Rosie Wilson, a member of UMD College Republicans and sophomore environmental science and policy major. “We have a far greater obligation to our citizens than we do to all of the people in the world.”
Mahmood and other Young Americans for Liberty representatives were in favor of open borders.
“The government has absolutely no place to tell me who I’m allowed to invite to my house, or to tell me who I’m allowed to hire for my own business,” Mahmood said.
Despite the groups’ differences, junior English major Brendan Xu said he was not expecting the cordial atmosphere of the debate.
“I feel like this debate kind of went off script at some moments, but I really appreciated when it did,” Xu said. “It was kind of refreshing to see that.”
Young Americans for Liberty member Chris Henderson said he hopes these debates will focus even more exclusively on immigration in the future.
“I really do think we could’ve hammered out the immigration issue a little more, because that’s just such a huge issue with so many different components,” said Henderson, a junior mechanical engineering major. “I think it’s very important, because so many people’s lives depend on it.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Chris Henderson is a member of College Republicans. He is a member of Young Americans for Liberty. The story has been corrected.