Immigration is top of mind this year for Gen Z voters Kunal Botla and Artem Talibov. The two children of immigrants met recently to share their perspectives from opposite ends of the political spectrum on a recent taping for GBH’s Politics IRL series.

Talibov, a 22-year-old Republican who plans to vote for former President Donald Trump, noted that “the situation now is just not tenable.”

He also expressed concern that the United States’ socioeconomic landscape can worsen if migrants struggle to assimilate after arriving to the country. “It’s assimilating 11 million people into a culture that is admittedly different from where they’re coming from, is a difficult task.”

Botla, a 19-year-old progressive who said his vote will go to President Joe Biden, thinks government should focus should on fixing the process. “My solution for it would look more like a massive reform of our immigration system,” he said.

Botla said he believes the current system has led to individuals defaulting to crossing the border illegally.

We want to hear from you

What political topic or issue is most important to you right now? GBH News wants to know what's motivating young people to vote — or not — in the 2024 general election. Share your thoughts with us here.

Talibov agreed the system “is admittedly dysfunctional,” but he worried an influx of migrants could lead to criminals entering the country.

Botla responded: “I’m the child of immigrants, it sounds like you are too. Crime hasn’t been a big portion of my life. How does immigration translate into crime?”

Talibov noted personally hearing stories of immigrants committing crime, and suggested greater vetting to filter out “bad apples.”

“We want a more thorough checking process of exactly who’s coming in and what the reasons for doing so are,” Talibov said.

Botla said the U.S. needs immigration policies that allow a mix of immigrants into the country.

“How does the U.S., you know, function if it only allows for very educated or very well off immigrants, and then ignore the portion of immigrants that are also contributing a significant value to society?” he said.

While the two young voters agreed that the current system is broken, they disagreed about how this country should handle immigration — and that will fuel their votes this election.

Politics IRL is a project supported by  America Amplified, working with public media stations across the country to expand the use of journalism practices that meaningfully address local information needs through active listening and engagement, especially in communities that have been traditionally underserved by public media.