Foreign policy of Presidential candidates discussed at Speak Up, Speak Out

Among conversations on refugees, immigration and free trade, Timothy Hazen reminded the audience in the Bovee University Center Auditorium Thursday night that effective foreign policy doesn't happen overnight.

The political science professor was one of the six members on the panel at Speak Up, Speak Out's last open forum of the fall semester. While Thursday's discussion centered around foreign policies, the previous SUSO forums this year were on other topics relating to the 2016 Presidential election, including domestic policies, third party voting and polarization of political parties.

"Every four years, (candidates) are trying to do the short-term. They need to win. They need votes," Hazen said. "At some point, we need to make long-term strategies and (have) patience."

Though it allows Americans to have a say in their country's political issues, Hazen said a problem with democracy is it makes it difficult for elected presidents to achieve policies they promise during campaigns.

"Our foreign policy is not going to happen in two months or two years," he said. "Sometimes this is going to take 5, 10 or 15 years. We have this constant 'now-ness' within our culture of growing technological aspects and in some ways, we see this creep into the ways that we view policy."

Refugees and illegal immigrants

When the topic of immigration was brought up, graduate student Mallory Walton emphasized the difference between illegal immigrants and refugees.

"Refugees are totally separate categories than situations such as illegal Central Americans coming into the country," she said. "Refugees are forced migrants. They have no other choice. They fear for their lives."

The first step to becoming a refugee in the United States requires a migrant have a referral or direct-access application — if eligible — to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. USRAP must be able to identify humanitarian concerns or reunite family members for a migrant to be eligible for a direct-access application.

If accepted, refugee applicants must undergo a pre-screening interview before another interview with an immigration officer form the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The time it takes to complete all the steps varies, but the average processing is about 18-24 months from the time of referral or application until arrival in the U.S., according to

"Trump likes to think that these people aren't screened, but that's totally opposite of the truth," Walton said. "He wants to ban Syrian refugees from coming in and deport the ones that we have already accepted.That's pretty radical."

Foreign policy or domestic policy?

As the conversation on refugees continued, audience members mentioned the negative affects of allowing refugees into the U.S.

One student argued that Syrian refugees in particular could cause threats to Americans in some cases because of severed relations between the U.S. and Syria.

In response, Hazen said the movement of people from one country to another is inevitable.

"I would really challenge whether this is a foreign policy issue," he said. "If you are concerned about people coming from Syria, then let's fix Syria."

While screening Syrian migrants before accepting them as refugees is necessary for safety, the panelists agreed that Americans must also focus on why the refugees are "knocking on our door."

"With forced migration, you don't have a choice," said political science professor Maureen Eke. "In that case, should we just sit back and say, 'sorry you lost your home and don't have a place to go to, now go away.' I don't think so."

Enacting foreign policy issues after Election Day

When asked how easy or difficult it will be for the elected candidate to execute their plan for foreign policy, Hazen responded an idiom in American politics.

"You can't win an election on foreign policy. You can only lose it," he said. "Half of the things that either Clinton or Trump are saying are not going to happen. If individuals are voting for Trump or for Clinton for certain foreign policy platforms, the reality is that those most likely aren't going to come to full fruition."


About McKenzie Sanderson

McKenzie Sanderson is the Sports Editor at Central Michigan Life. She is a senior at Central ...

View Posts by McKenzie Sanderson →