Terry Gorman, the founder and director of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, incited debate among listeners last night as he argued that immigrants imposed a drain on both the local and national economy, especially in the education and medical fields.
The group was founded to inform Providence residents of the financial consequences of illegal immigration, advocating hard-line reform, according to the organization's website.
Gorman set the tone for the lecture with an anecdote about 17 undocumented factory workers from Mexico, only one of which could speak English after living and working in the United States for 15 years.
"I was offended that people would be here for so long and not learn English," he said. English proficiency "would be a courtesy to the country where they were living."
Undocumented immigrants cost Rhode Island $440 million a year. Specifically, $125 million in medical care and $7.2 million in incarceration costs, Gordon said.
He added that a high number of undocumented women in Rhode Island delivered babies who are then considered U.S. Citizens, and who then qualify to receive the full benefits of the Social Security System.
"Mothers aren't entitled to welfare, but their babies will be, so the mothers will still get the money," Gorman said, explaining how undocumented immigrants can deprive U.S. citizens of welfare money. "If a woman came here on vacation or on a work visa, we should take care of (the baby), but I don't believe a woman should come here pregnant to have a baby born."
Gorman stated that he is not racist or targeting immigrants specifically from Mexico.
"We need to send them back, regardless of where they came from and the conditions they would go back to — whether it be Russia, France, Ireland or Honduras," he said.
Gorman's talk was organized by Rabbi Alan Flam, who is coordinating a lecture series for University Community Academic Advising Program, a pre-orientation program for students who are interested in community service in Providence. Immigration was one of the key themes of this year's program.
While Flam said he doesn't agree with Gorman's immigration views, he invited the speaker so the program participants could be exposed to different points of view.
"We want people to understand how complicated immigration is," Flam said. "Talking about a complex issue is what being at a university is all about."
Students had the opportunity to debate with Gorman during a question and answer session that ran longer than the lecture itself.
Jesse McGleughlin '14 said she thought Gorman's claim that all immigrants should learn English lacked an understanding of the resources available to them.
His argument "was founded on blame and not what it means to assimilate and how hard it is to learn another language," she said.
An earlier version of this article article misstated Terry Gorman's estimate of how much illegal immigration costs Rhode Island.