Four of Penn’s political groups participated in a debate hosted by the Penn Government and Politics Association on Monday.
GPA partnered with the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy to host the all-party debate in the auditorium of the Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics. Around 50 attendees watched representatives from Penn College Republicans, Penn Democrats, Penn for Liberty, and the Penn Young Democratic Socialists of America debate a variety of topics.
Marc Edayadi, College senior and GPA President, moderated the debate, which consisted of four segments — each 20 minutes long — focused on immigration, affordable housing, military aid, and drug addiction. Each group was allotted time for a two-minute opening statement, and the remaining time was dedicated to one-minute rebuttals.
On the topic of immigration, Penn YDSA debater and College senior Jack Starobin spoke about how immigration is a “human rights issue,” criticizing how immigrants are often forced to “prove their value in the marketplace.” He added that the United States has contributed to destabilization in countries that produce the most immigrants to the country.
“We call for full rights and amnesty for undocumented workers, an end to deportations, full family reunification, and an end to global capitalism that has disenfranchised 99% of the world and forced a system of violence through its draconian anti-immigration law,” Starobin said.
Penn Dems debater and College junior Alex Guzman echoed sentiments of Western exploitation in the Global South and called for work authorizations, protection from deportations, and guaranteed pathways to citizenship for immigrants.
College Republicans debater and College senior Lexi Bocuzzi criticized the current state of the border, which she said has faced an increase in fentanyl seizures, human trafficking, and bolstered the drug cartel system. She said how College Republicans supported policies that make it easier for immigrants to seek asylum and forge a pathway to citizenship, in addition to deporting individuals who have been convicted of criminal activity.
The moderator then moved the discussion to affordable housing, mentioning the rising costs of homes and rental prices.
Penn for Liberty called for the deregulation of zoning laws and emphasized how housing policies should be made at the local level.
Adrian Rafizadeh, Wharton sophomore and College Republicans debater made calls for the private sector to increase supply and criticized Democratic governments for stifling development.
Guzman claimed that a greater allocation of resources to programs like the National Housing Trust Fund and the federal housing voucher program would help the affordable housing crisis. A Penn YDSA debater and College senior — who after publication requested anonymity out of fear of being doxxed online — said that the market cannot solve the housing crisis and called for federal programs to finance housing, construction, maintenance, and leasing and a decommodification of housing stock.
On the topic of military aid, Edayadi mentioned congressional packages for Ukraine and Israel and asked what the role of the United States should be in foreign wars.
Noah Rubinson, Wharton and College junior in the Huntsman Program and College Republican debater called engagement in certain regions “not just a choice, but a strategic necessity.”
The anonymous senior said that the United States has “massacred entire populations under the guise of freedom and democracy” and is currently “funding and enabling Israeli genocide and war crimes in Gaza.”
Penn for Liberty said that they “[sympathized] with the plight of Ukrainians” but do not think the United States should send more aid to Ukraine or Israel because such aid is not benefiting or protecting Americans anymore.
Guzman told The Daily Pennsylvanian that he wished the debate had avoided the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict because of the high level of emotions associated with it, while Rubinson said that having an open environment of the GPA debate was important to discuss more controversial topics.
Penn for Liberty Recruitment Chair and College junior Maya El-Sharif told the DP that she appreciated the space that GPA provided for dialogue between students across the political spectrum. She said that the classroom could foster “silencing effects” for differing opinions and that such events relieved groups of the pressure of conforming in such environments.