Former governors debate immigration at Democracy Challenge


YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – Two former Pennsylvania governors on opposing sides of the political spectrum squared off Wednesday in the inaugural Democracy Challenge hosted by the York County Economic Alliance.

Their mission was simple: reach a compromise on providing a legal pathway to the workforce for undocumented immigrants living in the Keystone State, and do it all in just one hour.

Democrat Ed Rendell and Republican Mark Schweiker took to the stage at York College to show that divisiveness and political discourse do not need to rule every political interaction, showing that compromise is possible.

“I am impatient about the conduct of the federal government, particularly Congress, and what they’ve not been able to achieve going back to 1986,” Schweiker said.

Rendell agreed in what was one of several agreements the two struck Wednesday evening.

“What I would like state governments to do all over the 50 states is that each state legislature pass a resolution demanding that Congress act to do comprehensive immigration reform,” Rendell said.

At the core, they say immigration reform is a federal issue that’s gone by the wayside.

Rendell said governing is all about give and take; to get what you want, you must give the other side something they want.

“Politicians are going to have to raise their hands and vote for something that will tick off some of their own supporters,” Rendell said, calling out purists on both the extreme right and left who think no deal should ever be struck with the opposing side.

Rendell said that “something” could be agreeing to funding for Trump’s border wall to satisfy Republicans so that they’ll give Democrats a smoother path to citizenship on behalf of immigrants.

Schweiker said governing requires sensible compromise.

“This isn’t about looking the other way or allowing immigrants to move to the front of the line. They’ve gotta stay in line, they’ve gotta earn their way,” he said. “We’re not going to give anything away for free, so to speak.”

The duo also agreed health care should extend to migrant kids via the CHIP program, but echoed one another in saying adults would have to wait.

“Ultimately, they will earn their way and be able to acquire their health care,” Schweiker said.

Both agreed that immigrants are vital to Pennsylvania’s workforce, especially its mushroom industry. They acknowledge, though, that no approach is perfect.

“There will be no immigration bill, a comprehensive immigration bill, that pleases everyone. It is impossible,” said Rendell.

The governors also agreed in their hypothetical proposal to providing drive-only licenses to immigrants, as well as certificates that show someone is employable.

In the end, however, they believe lawmakers in Washington need to take action first.

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