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Following the success of the "Election Night Extravaganza" in November, SGA decided to start a "Between Elections" series. Photo by Jaedon Huie.

Coffee & Conversation tackles tough immigration discussion

“What does immigration mean to you?”

That question was posed to four panelists on Thursday night in a packed Lower Flat Tuesdays as part of the ongoing SGA “Between Elections: Coffee & Conversation” series.

The panel focused on immigration, posing thought-provoking and sometimes controversial questions to the panelists: Meghan Lynch, Zaid Ali, Felipe Filomeno and Michael Russell. The “Between Elections” series is put on with the support of several different campus political organizations such as the College Democrats, College Republicans, The Humble Rumble and UMBC Progressives.

As the panel begins, the moderator encourages the participants and the audience to create a space for open discussion. The purpose of this event is have respectful conversations, not arguments.

But with any hot button issue, tension is unavoidable. As the conversation turned to whether or not additional scrutiny would be needed for middle eastern immigrants, the panelists engaged in a heated back-and-forth discussion. The audience was also actively participating, clapping and interacting with panelists after the initial discussion.

According to Collin Sullivan, a junior information systems and economics major, the purpose of the series is to create spaces where students have “the ability to work and listen to people that don’t perfectly agree on a topic at hand, but can find some common ground. We believe that participating in civil discourse and engaging in real issues (among many other ways) are just some of the things we can do now, between the general election and the midterm election.”

Over 40 minutes, the discussion ranged from personal experiences with immigration, DACA, President Trump’s proposed wall and how the UMBC community should respond to the changing political atmosphere. Although the panelists did not always agree, each echoed the need to treat their fellow students with respect and cited the truly American nature of a free discussion.

“Our goal is to increase participation in midterm elections by engaging all members of our UMBC community, students, faculty, and staff, in a broader political process. Democratic engagement isn’t a checkbox that gets crossed off on election day because you voted — it’s an evolving process every day,” says Sullivan.

Meghan Lynch, a senior political science major, vice president of College Democrats and vice president of student oganizations in SGA, encourages students to take advantage of the many events put on by campus political groups, such as canvassing and guest lectures. She also encourages students to come out to the upcoming panels on education and gun control.

“Pick up the newspaper. We get free newspapers at UMBC: the New York Times, the Washington Post, you name it. Read the news, be informed. That’s the main issue. There’s so much going on on campus, you just have to be tuned in,” says Lynch.

Lynch, however, also provided some critiques of the representation on the panel.

“If you could see the panel tonight, I’m the only woman and that’s what really makes my part on the panel so important for me. We’re talking about immigration and half of the population [is] women and their voices aren’t being heard. One out of four [panelists] doesn’t seem enough to me,” says Lynch.