Five Illinois Republican lawmakers are reviving the call for Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform that includes provisions to expand visas for high skill, low skill and agricultural workers, and a path to citizenship for the undocumented population. At an immigration reform panel discussion sponsored by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC), Reps. Aaron Schock (R), Adam Kinzinger (R), Bob Dold (R), Sen. Mark Kirk (R) and Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) remarked that it was time to their colleagues in Congress to move on a comprehensive immigration bill.
“It’s naive to think that the 11 to 12 million people are going to disappear,” Schock said, citing a new right-leaning American Action Forum study, which reported that mass deportation of 11 million immigrants would cost the government anywhere between $400 billion and $600 billion. The study found that the impact on real gross domestic product would drop by about $1.6 trillion.
Both Schock and Dold asked audience members to put pressure on Republicans in other districts to support immigration reform. Dold said, “This is an opportunity for us, yes in the United States Congress, but my charge again to all of you is to make sure we’re reaching out to those other districts, where Republicans and Democrats can join hands and talk about how we can finally move ahead with an immigration bill.”
Kirk stated, “Comprehensive immigration reform is imperative to ensuring the 525,000 people in Illinois can come out of the shadows, put down permanent roots and invest in Illinois. The way to base their rights and privileges is to lock them in with an actual statute that respects them as future Americans and allows them to keep families together permanently.”
Kinzinger and Kirk indicated that they would like to support legislation that allows so-called DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants brought to the country as youths, into the military. Referencing the time he served as a military reservist in the Middle East, Kirk joked, “I thought if we had some DREAMers in a platoon in Afghanistan, God help the Taliban on the other side of the valley.”
The comments come at a time when any hope of immigration seems to have stalled, with Politico reporting that “leadership has shown no indication when –or if — [any immigration bills] will come to the floor.” Republicans have meanwhile, corralled behind bills to kill President Obama’s executive action intended to fill this gap.
All five Republican lawmakers did support reform at a time when the move had more bipartisan support. Rauner was even supportive of the President’s executive action, calling it a “great start” to “get the dialogue going” on immigration policies, the Chicago Tribune noted in November 2014. But in the years since the passage of the Senate immigration bill, Republicans have punted immigration reform to a later date, and made excuses about why a comprehensive bill would drastically alter the immigration system.
Elsewhere, both Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) are touting an overhaul bill that includes legal status for undocumented immigrants. Graham said on Monday, “I’ve got one goal: Fix this permanently” and that Latinos are “the most patriotic people I’ve ever met.”
But even with the urging by these Repubican lawmakers, comprehensive immigration reform may still be something of a backburner issue. For example, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) dismissed prospects of immigration reform, telling Politico in a piece published Monday, “at this point, we have a lot of other issues to do.”