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Rotary speaker offers opposing view on immigration reform

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The immigration debate is heating up all over the country, and here in Nashville, many Metro Council members support immigration reform. So when a local civic club invited a very polarizing speaker, it raised some eyebrows.

The Rotary Club says it was merely offering a different view on the immigration reform debate, but some believe speaker Mark Krikorian's views aren't helping move the conversation forward.

Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, believes there's too much immigration in the United States - both legal and illegal.

Krikorian has also said America needs to cut its immigration in half and limit it to only immediate family of American citizens, those whom he calls the real "Einsteins" of the world and refugees who truly have no place else to go.

"If we had a motto, it would be 'fewer immigrants but a warmer welcome,'" Krikorian said.

Immigration reform has picked up some big local endorsements over the past few months. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce announced its support, and so, too, did the Metro Nashville School Board and Schools Director Dr. Jesse Register.

Last month, both Tennessee Republican senators voted in favor of immigration reform.

So the Rotary Club's choice of speaker for its lunch Monday raised some eyebrows.

"I think his views on immigration are completely out of step with the views of the American people," said Eben Cathey, with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

The Rotary Club explained his invitation in a statement, saying, "After a presentation earlier this year on the issue of immigration, several members requested an opportunity to hear another perspective on the issue. The club is granting that request today with Mark Krikorian's presentation."

Krikorian spent his speech talking about why he believes the current immigration bill is not the way to go.

"It legalizes the illegal population first, and then promises to enforce the law in the future," Krikorian said.

He also says the bill is too long and doubles the amount of legal immigration in the first year, but not everyone in the audience agreed.

"If we're going to have a debate that actually moves us forward, we need to be listening to credible sources and not outsiders from Washington," Cathey said.

Krikorian counters the support and says while the elite support reform, many working class people do not and that's where the disconnect is.

The Rotary Club isn't Krikorian's only engagement in Nashville. He is set to speak to a tea party group Monday evening.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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