Florida President, Students Discuss Proposed Immigration Reform

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A bipartisan group has agreed on basic legislation.

As a bipartisan group of senators agreed on basic principles that could eventually reform America's immigration laws, WPTV's Alex Sanz turned to Northwood University Florida President Dr. Tom Duncan and international students to get their perspectives.

Mahesha Jayawardana, a Sri Lankan native and hospitality major at Northwood, offered heartfelt thoughts regarding her learning experience. "The opportunities that you get with this education I can't even explain. An American education is always regarded very highly around the world and I know I speak for a lot of my friends when I say this," she said. "[The proposed immigration reform] would actually make it easier for people who are willing to stay and are willing to pay their dues and taxes. It will make it so much easier for them."

And many believe that the end result of proposed reform would lead to additional employment opportunities.

Esteban Benitez, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree student from Paraguay offered his take on the changes which could expedite citizenship for as many as 11 million people. "If you look at some of the most successful companies in the United States right now, they were started by immigrants. So, immigrants don't necessarily take away jobs from people. They add jobs," said Benitez, who like most international students faces restrictions on how long to stay in the country. "I really believe in the American dream and this idea that capitalism and free-enterprise can make the world a better place and bring global peace and just have a more sustainable distribution of the world's resources," he added.

Northwood University President Dr. Tom Duncan agreed that proposed reform could help promote the American Dream. "Giving people the opportunity to work, to be productive, to pay taxes, to contribute to society -- in a legal way -- is a good thing," said Dr. Tom Duncan. He noted that key segments in both the Democratic and Republican parties want to see significant reform in the nation's immigration laws, although there also are strong opponents to reform in both parties. About 40 percent of the students who attend Northwood Florida, Duncan added, are from other countries. "Most of our international students desire to earn their Northwood degrees then return to their home countries to start businesses, expand their family businesses, and to put The Northwood Idea into practice to make the economies of their nations stronger," Duncan concluded.

Appointed Northwood Florida President in July, 2012, Duncan has become recognized as a valued political, economic, and social commentator for CBS, ABC, NBC and FOX television affiliates in the Palm Beach area. From 2007-2009, Duncan was Visiting Professor of Higher Education at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He served as a senior staff member to Missouri Governor John Ashcroft in education and policy management from 1985-1989, as well as Director of the Missouri Division of Professional Registration from 1989-1992. Prior to his government service, he was an assistant professor of government and public administration at Evangel College (now Evangel University) in Springfield, Missouri from 1980-1984. He later served colleges and universities in California, Arizona, and Ohio in faculty and administrative capacities.

Duncan earned his PhD. in higher education from the University of Arizona in 2005; an M.A. in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1979; his B.A. in government from Evangel College in 1975; and a course of study in preparation for Anglican ordination with the Anglican Mission in the Americas. He is an ordained minister with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). In addition to his higher education service, Duncan has remained active as a chaplain and pastor in religious communities in California, Arizona, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

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