As a refugee from Cuba, the ongoing debate about DACA—or what to do with children of undocumented immigrants—hits close to home for PG&E CEO Geisha Williams.
Speaking at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Williams was confident that a compromise could be reached among lawmakers. “We can figure out the immigration issue,” she said. “Main Street Republicans, moderate Democrats: There’s a lot of common ground there,” she said. “It’s about removing the rhetoric.”
While we “have to protect our borders, we also have to make sure immigration continues,” she noted. “People who come to the U.S. are full of creativity, innovation, perseverance,” she said. “They’re the secret weapon.”
Last month, President Trump decided to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, which had allowed people who entered the country illegally as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and be eligible for a work permit.
DACA’s expiration, currently set for March, would make approximately 800,000 of these individuals (“Dreamers”) eligible for deportation.
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Williams herself is the perfect example of the American dream, having come to the U.S. at age five and rising to become the first Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 company.
Moreover, she has plenty of experience with finding seemingly impossible middle ground. Before becoming chief of California’s largest utility, she was able to reach a consensus between labor groups, environmentalists, and state lawmakers in the decision to decommission Diablo Canyon, California’s last nuclear plant. (Labor groups were opposed due to job loss; environmentalists feared that nuclear power would be replaced by fossil fuels.)