NEW YORK – It’s the kind of discussion local advocates say would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but business, labor and immigrant leaders exchanged ideas Monday on a variety of issues linked to immigration reform.
Local advocates described it as a frank discussion of hot-button immigrant issues.
Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said it’s a major sign of progress that local immigrant and union advocates were able to sit down with business leaders and find common ground on tough issues such as comprehensive immigration reform.
“No one organization or part of the economy is going to agree with everything, but we all have something to gain by continuing to cooperate, and to talk about tough issues,” Gergela stated.
Congressman Tim Bishop, who hosted Monday’s forum at the Congregational Church of Patchogue, said fixing the nation’s immigration system will boost job creation and that he looks forward to working with New York business and labor leaders on the issue.
Immigrants already make a significant contribution to the local tax base and business start-ups, according to Roger Clayman with the Long Island Federation of Labor.
“So, we need to make certain that they are protected, that they have decent wages, that they can pay taxes, that they can go to the store – and we’re all stronger in our economy if those things happen,” Clayman declared.
Alvin Ramnarain, executive director of the retail workers union, 1102 RWDSU, said the reason this discussion of immigration reform matters is because a wide range of voices were heard.
“Ranging from a guest worker program to a path to citizenship, a meaningful path to citizenship,” Ramnarain described matters discussed. “You’re not going to have any meaningful reform until everyone has a part in it and everyone has a stake in it.”
Long Island Wins joined the Long Island Civic Engagement Table [Make the Road New York], and the local Hispanic newspaper (Noticia) in co-hosting the forum.