Two Cents: The April PF Topic Wordings

Two Cents has returned once again! This month, we review the newly-released April topics, housed under the topic area of Immigration. Contributing their Two Cents this month are Kyle Chong and Ellie Singer.

Here are the NSDA’s topic choices:
OPTION 1 – Resolved: The United States federal government should increase its quota of H-1B visas.

OPTION 2 – Resolved: Stricter enforcement of federal immigration laws is in the best interest of United States national security.

Ellie Singer

Ellie Singer is a graduate of the Blake School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she competed in public forum for four years. Her junior year, she was top speaker at the Glenbrooks, top speaker at NDCA, and placed in the top 14 at NSDA Nationals, auto-qualifying her for the ToC and Nationals in 2017. Her senior year, she received a bid and speaker award at every regular season tournament, championed the Glenbrooks, won and was top speaker at the Ivy Street Round Robin, placed 2nd at the Tournament of Champions, and also competed in world schools debate with Team USA, semifinaling at the World Schools Debating Championships. Ellie now attends Yale University where she competes in parliamentary debate.

While I think the first topic may look like it is aff-biased upon first glance, I do think it is possible to have a reasonable debate on either side. For those who don’t know, H-1B visas are given through an employer-driven petition system and must be for “specialty occupations.” Those jobs are often in STEM, medicine, and business. Affirmatives can argue that the economy benefits from having more people able to fill the specialized jobs that our country sometimes lacks, like in the tech sector, where H-1B workers are very prominent, which also makes US business more competitive. Additionally, they can argue it is an independent good to increase the diversity of our workforce. There is also ground to say that since the tech industry takes so many of these visas now, increasing the quota might benefit other industries. Negatives can argue that H-1B visas aren’t actually great for workers, since they’re often paid below what American-born workers are. They can also argue that American countries use these visas as a way to temporarily welcome workers and then bring that knowledge outside the US, exporting jobs on net. Or, conversely, that such visas take away specialized work via brain drain. In good rounds, this can be a really interesting and nuanced topic.

Final Grade: B

I think the second resolution can get difficult to debate. I imagine some teams might try to muddy the waters of this resolution considering how general “federal immigration laws” can be. Additionally, I think of lot of teams on the affirmative will end up doing what teams do on any topic that can involve a wide range of policies: pick ultra-specific immigration laws they feel they can comfortably defend and write their contentions based off of those so-called advocacies instead of the general resolution. I worry that this devolves into a mess of blippy, obscure affs while negatives can more broadly make appeals to morality that, well, immigrants are not dangerous. Especially given the current political climate, I’m not sure how productive the arguments debaters make on this topic will be, and I’m afraid the evidence quality will also be highly variable and extremely partisan.

Final Grade: B-

Kyle Chong

Kyle Chong is an Assistant Coach at The Nueva School in California. As a debater, Kyle was the President of Bronx Science’s Debate Team, where he won seven bids to the Tournament of Champions, ending his career at tenth in the country. His students have achieved success at both the local and national level, boasting championships at SCU, Harker, ASU, Berkeley, Bronx, Kandi King, and TOC, along with final round appearances at Harker, Bronx, and MLK. Kyle is a junior at UC Berkeley.

The H-1B’s topic is a similarly nuanced debate that represents a microcosm of the issue as a whole. Like the capital gains topic, this resolution examines a subset of immigration issues, and debaters will need to be nuanced with their argumentation and evidence if they want to do well this month. I think this is a really balanced topic that is backed up with pretty great research, but I don’t really see the topic getting more nuanced. I would imagine a lot of the debates will be skewed to be solely about impacts to American citizens, which when focused will make for a pretty clash-heavy discussion. Debaters will have to weigh across opposing warrants and impacts to resolve a lot of those clashes in offense. I expect a few teams to find their way to crazy impact scenarios or deriving offense off of really good pieces of evidence, but not because of the wording of the resolution. I don’t think there’s anything particularly unclear about the resolutional wording. Overall, I think debates on these will be pretty substantive and interesting, and will hopefully go past what we hear in the news.

Final Grade: B

The initial turnoff of the second topic is that it is barely a debate for a large part of the judge pool. A large group of people in America believe in the sentiment that immigration is a security issue, making the aff the intuitively true side. However, I think for the types of debates that normally happen on the April topic, this problem may not be one to worry about. Similar to Ellie, I think that this topic is difficult to define and will open the door to very squirrelly arguments about specific pieces of immigration policy, though I think this vagueness will only make the topic much more open and interesting for debates in April. Long story short, I think this topic certainly has a lot of room for error, but for a topic that comes this late in the season and considering the debates we normally hear at tournaments like NDCA and TOC, I think strategically speaking this is a super cool resolution. I think a serious problem with the resolution, however, is that it conflates issues of immigration as an issue of national security. By and large, immigrants aren’t any more dangerous than any other group of Americans. The sentiment that the resolution seems to adopt is therefore problematic, in that it pushes a false narrative of immigrants being a threat to our society.

Final Grade: B

What are your thoughts on these topics? Let us know by leaving a comment below!