Finding consensus proved to be an easy task for two former governors debating immigration and its role in the state's labor force Wednesday.

Former Govs. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, and Mark Schweiker, a Republican, were challenged to come to a compromise in an hour at the Democracy Challenge event sponsored by the York County Economic Alliance and Comcast at York College.

It took about five minutes in the dimly lit Waldner Performing Arts Center.

"This isn't a debate, because I don't disagree with a lot of the points Mark has," Rendell said in his first response to the state's role in immigration policy. "The most important thing for you to learn is that immigration has to be solved at the federal level."

Referencing the federal government's responsibility was a common theme on Wednesday night. Both governors emphasized the state's limited influence on immigration besides pressuring federal politicians.

At one point, Rendell suggested it would probably be more beneficial to have U.S. Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey in the hot seat instead of two former state officials.

Yet the two governors, who agreed on nearly every topic they spoke about, asserted it's also important not to completely leave immigration policy up to members of Congress.

"I think tonight is about at least the outlook that we're not going to wait for the federal government," Schweiker said. 

By the end of the hour, the two governors voiced their support for several state actions to aid immigrants and propel them into the workforce.

The governors both supported giving green cards to undocumented immigrants who graduate college, implementing drive-only licenses to help immigrants get to work and making employment available to anyone who can prove their residency.

However, they also agreed these measures would have little tangible effects on the economy and mostly act as a catalyst to send the state in the right direction, which would need to be bolstered through the federal government reforming how it handles illegal immigration.

Toward the end of the jovial discussion, the two governors outlined the best way politicians can  compromise, using the lens of lawmakers in Congress coming to a deal on a comprehensive immigration package.

The moderate politicians emphasized that when striking a deal, it's important to note that, in politics, one often has give something up in order to gain something, such as offering border wall funding in exchange for some Democratic proposals.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.

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