Local leaders urge action on immigration reform
Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner is one of 21 elected heads of larger Illinois municipalities who recently wrote to the state’s congressional delegation in Washington imploring members to overhaul immigration laws as a way to repair and boost the economy.
The leaders signed a letter that says new laws focusing on all immigrants, regardless of citizenship status, will create jobs and raise revenues. An estimated 11 million immigrants are living in the U.S. illegally.
“Illinois is facing tough economic times,” the letter says. “We cannot hope to achieve the growth necessary to repair the damage done by the recession without bringing 11 million people out of the shadows and fully integrated into our economy.”
In a press release issued Thursday, 11th District Congressman Bill Foster (D-Naperville), whose district includes a part of the Aurora area, acknowledged receipt of the letter and stated, “There has been overwhelming support from the religious community, business community, law enforcement and people from all walks of life. How long can Congress continue to ignore their calls for reform? It’s time for Congress to stop ignoring this critical issue and take action.”
Foster is a co-sponsor of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act — a comprehensive immigration reform bill proponents say would strengthen borders, improve the legal immigration system and provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Also behind the move to get Congress to act on immigration reform are Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and FWD.us, an advocacy organization started by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Emanuel has vowed to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the world. The state already has some of the nation’s most immigrant-friendly laws, and a few of its top leaders are involved in reform, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, officials said.
Illinois has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and is facing other financial issues that could be helped by reform, according to the letter. The mayors said the timing is right in the wake of the end of the partial federal government shutdown.
The mayors aren’t pushing for a particular bill. Legislation with amped-up border security has passed the Senate, but it is unclear if any overhaul will come for a vote in the GOP-led House.
“Our country was careening towards default, and leaders from both parties — in both chambers — came together to do the right thing,” the letter said. “Let’s take this opportunity to form another coalition to come together, heal our economy and grant those — who followed in the footsteps of many of our own immigrant parents — a legal path to remain here and provide a better life for their children.”
Along with Weisner and Emanuel, those signing the letter are from Elgin, Peoria, Fairmont City, Hanover Park, Cicero, Champaign, Joliet, Normal, Orland Park, Hoffman Estates, Franklin Park, Urbana, Bloomington, Highland Park, Elmwood Park, Melrose Park, Evanston, McCook and Lincolnwood.