Durbin in Lake County to push immigration reform
By Phil Rockrohr Prockrohr@pioneerlocal.com September 2, 2013 6:48PM
Senator Dick Durbin (Right) speaks during Thursday's roundtable discussion about immigration reform. Durbin and Rep. Brad Schneider (Left) hosted the event at the College of Lake County's Southlake Campus in Vernon Hills. | Brian O'Mahoney/For Sun-Times
Updated: November 2, 2013 2:40AM
Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider joined community leaders Aug. 29 at College of Lake County’s Southland Campus in Vernon Hills to stress the urgency of House passage of immigration reform.
Durbin outlined details of a bill the Senate approved in June that he helped write, and argued, contrary to the claims of its opponents, that the bill is rigid in its requirements of granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants.
“It won’t be easy to get citizenship under this bill,” he said. “For those who say it’s amnesty, it’s simply not. It’s pretty tough.”
Virtually all 10 community leaders, including Illinois Sens. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, and Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield, expressed support for the bill as part of a forum Durbin said was intended to present a cross-section of north suburban community leaders.
Schneider, who argued the House must approve immigration reform in one bill in its coming session starting Sept. 9, said it will be up to leadership to decide how soon the issue is considered.
“We must have comprehensive immigration reform,” he said. “The need to be comprehensive is critical for many reasons, but one of the most important is to grow the economy. Families are still struggling five years later after the ’08 crisis. Immigration reform is one way to get the economy going.”
Both Link and Morrison emphasized the idea that the families of all Americans were immigrants at one time. “We forget that sometimes,” Link said.
“For me, in my community, immigrants are people we work with, whose kids go to school with our kids, who shop in our stores, and who are our neighbors,” Morrison said. “Immigrants are some of the most motivated people I know.”
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said immigration reform is crucial to the future of police protection, which will focus on community policing, such as during the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing.
“In immigrant communities today people have no idea why police are there,” Curran said. “They see people being deported and there is great fear. The community has to be our eyes and ears. Police can’t see armed robbers or children being violated. Immigrants need to be able to talk to police without fear.”
Immigration reform will help create a healthier American population and provide much-needed workers in the healthcare industry, said Dominica Tallarico, president of Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.
“There is an opportunity to fill open positions if many people could legitimately apply,” Tallarico said. “There is a huge opportunity in this bill. There will continue to be a shortage of healthcare workers.”
Immigrant children often do not have access to financial aid, said George Fornero, superintendent of Township High School District 113, whose high-achieving students include undocumented immigrants at prestigious Highland Park High School.
Children of undocumented immigrants face inordinate stress in school from the fear that their parents may be deported, Fornero said. “That fear is real, no matter what we tell them,” he said.
Estefania Garcia, 22, of Highwood, a 2009 graduate of Highland Park High School and 2013 graduate of Lake Forest College, said she was able to get financial aid for academic achievement for her first two years of college.
However, she and her father had to work extra hours in order to pay for her last two years of college, Garcia said. Garcia was able to get a Social Security Number under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, she said.
Durbin said the Senate bill required considerable compromise by both Democrats and Republicans. Among the tougher provisions, he said, are:
•Border patrol officers, which numbered 10,000 10 years ago and were increased recently to 20,000, will increase to 40,000.
•The 700 miles of existing border fencing will be doubled.
Undocumented immigrants who arrived before 2012 must register themselves and their family members with the federal government.
•They and their family members must submit to a criminal background check and leave the country, if they are found to have committed a serious crime.
•If they choose to become citizens, undocumented immigrants must pay $500 as a downpayment on a $2,000 fine.
•They will then pay taxes for 10 years with no government benefits, including no access, even if paid, to President Obama’s healthcare program.
•After 10 years, if they learn English and experience no legal issues, they will receive a green card. After three more years, they will be awarded citizenship.