125 people tuned in to ILR's June 20 webinar, "Overhauling Immigration Laws: What Will Reform Mean for Labor, Business and Society," to watch Eliseo Medina of the SEIU and Randel K. Johnson of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce debate the immigration reform bill making its way through the U.S. Senate.
Medina is the international secretary-treasurer of the SEIU and Johnson is the senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. Both spoke from Washington, D.C., where they are lobbying on behalf of the bill.
The event was co-sponsored by ILR's Worker Institute at Cornell and introduced by Director Lowell Turner. Worker Institute Associate Maria Figueroa moderated the debate.
The two panelists sparred over a variety of issues surrounding the bill and its provisions, but found common ground when discussing the economic practicality of immigration reform.
"The fact is, that if we legalize these people, it will help all workers. It'll lift all boats, because we will no longer have underground economies," Medina said.
Johnson spoke from a business perspective, adding "If employers don’t have the workers they need to create the product they produce, that lowers the GDP, and that's bad for everyone."
The webinar ended with a question-and-answer session in which the viewers were able to put their questions forward for discussion by the panelists.
When asked about the prospects for the bill's passage, both speakers emphasized the importance of the broad-based coalition supporting immigration reform, especially the mutual support provided by labor groups and pro-business groups.
Medina addressed the unlikely alliance, joking "There's not a whole lot of issues that we agree on, but on this one, we absolutely agree."