From WILL - News Local/State -

GOP, Faith, Law Enforcement Leaders Push For Immigration Reform

Champaign County immigration forum

Lake County Sheriff Mike Curran (right) address forum on immigration at Champaign County Chamber of Commerce (Jeff Bossert/WILL)

A diverse group has brought a plea for common sense immigration reform to Champaign.

The speakers in a Wednesday panel hosted by the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce say they’re optimistic about a compromise after Congress returns from recess.

They included Logan County Republican Party Chair Dave Bender, who suggested the GOP could take a lesson from Democrats, who have a wide area of views on immigration, while some Republicans are labeled as ultra-conservative.

“I think there’s very little difference between the two," he said.  "We all want economic security.  We all want government kind of out of all lives.  We want to create a system that is fair for all.  I just think there’s a little part of it where we disagree, and as long as we have education as part of it, I don’t think we can go wrong.”

Bender heads the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois, and says current immigration policy is hurting in areas like bridge construction and repair, where skilled labor is needed.

Lake County Sheriff Mike Curran told the panel about his frustrations with the number of immigrants arrested over petty offenses that wind up incarcerated.  

He’s affiliated with Bibles, Badges, and Business - a group that seeks modernized immigration laws, safety and security on the borders, and worker programs.

Curran has taken his message to Washington to business leaders under Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist.

“From a law enforcement perspective, I talked about that, that the future is community policing," he said.  "We’re not going to have rule of law unless we pass this bill, and clearly the hope is that people listen, and they recognized that as conservatives, we should be behind this.”

Both Curran and Logan County GOP Chairman Dave Bender also criticized conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh. 

Bender says Limbaugh's comments are ‘not even remotely’ close to what’s being sought in Senate Bill 744, but he’s encouraged by other Republicans in Congress, including some in Illinois - and the backing of business leaders, like Catepillar CEO Doug Oberhelman.

Panelist and Champaign First Mennonite Church Pastor Janet Rasmussen cited the ‘dynamic growth’ of immigrants within congregations.  She said church-going Hispanics are fighting for a better life for those back home.

University of Illinois YMCA Executive Director Mike Doyle cited the example of Pakistani native and U of I graduate Shahid Kahn, who legally became a U.S. citizen through the difficult process years ago, and now owns auto parts maker Flex-N-Gate, an NFL team., and an English soccer team.

Doyle said he wonders how many more from overseas aspire to be like Khan.

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