Tillis, business leaders discuss immigration reform in Raleigh


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Immigration reform continues to be one of the more divisive topics across the country.

Monday, that debate came to Raleigh as Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) hosted a discussion on immigration reform at the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce with leaders of the business community.

“It’s not a coastal thing,” said Tillis. “It’s not a mountain thing. It’s a North Carolina thing. It’s a national thing and we need to solve it.”

Around the table, business leaders agreed change is necessary.

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“We’re dealing with immigrant workers that are not here legally, that are not documented, and they are a very productive part of our society,” said Richard Gephart, Gephart Building Company owner.

Around the table, business leaders echoed that sentiment.

“I think the facts get lost in the noise and it’s really unfortunate because it’s hurting American jobs and American industries,” said Jennifer Dionne with the American Seafood Jobs Alliance.

“Those who say, well, what you’ve got to do is put them on a boat and send them on home have no earthly idea what they’re talking about,” said Tillis. “It can’t happen. It shouldn’t happen.”

One voice not at the table was a representative of the Latino community. Viridiana Martinez with immigrant advocacy group, Alerta Migratoria, says that is disappointing to see, but she is glad to see Senator Tillis holding the discussion and says she believes he’s advocating for positive change.

“He thinks about business and the reality is that immigrants are good for business,” said Martinez. “The reality is people don’t care about citizenship. People just want to be able to legally work and legally drive.”

Senator Tillis said there was an invitation to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to attend the event. He said he’s spoken with interest groups from a variety of different nationalities and says they are involved in the discussion.

Tillis called for securing the border. He said amnesty does not work and called for stepped-up enforcement of the national e-verify program in a way that considers the needs of industries.

The discussion was organized by New American Economy, a coalition of business leaders who are advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.

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