U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth leaves no doubt about where she stands on immigration reform.
The Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate continues to be vocal about supporting comprehensive reform to legalize about 11 million undocumented immigrants and give them an eventual path to citizenship.
But what about her opponent, Republican incumbent Mark Kirk?
Kirk has supported reform in the past. He voted in 2013 for the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act that passed in the Senate and went nowhere in the Republican-controlled House.
But his positions on immigration have been wildly inconsistent. In his first term, he has at times aligned himself with the extreme right, which is puzzling. That doesn’t fit in Illinois, a state that politically is predominantly liberal to moderate.
Kirk “says he supports comprehensive immigration reform,” Duckworth told the Sun-Times Editorial Board this week in an endorsement interview. “He’s never actually been taking a leading role on this.”
He’s never gone to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or the Speaker of the House to press for action, Duckworth said. “He’s all over the place,” she added.
I had hoped to ask Kirk about his uneven record, but he declined to meet with the Editorial Board for an endorsement interview. I emailed his campaign to ask about the senator’s current views on this issue but didn’t hear back.
He voted against advancing the DREAM Act in 2010. The bill, which would have legalized younger adults who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, came five votes shy of moving forward.
Immediately after the vote, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a leader for reform, released a statement saying that if Republicans “are betting that Latino and immigrant voters will forget what happened today in Washington, they will be sadly mistaken.”
In Kirk’s case, some might say he redeemed himself by voting for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.
Even then, though, he was shaky about his position. At one point while the bill was moving along in the Senate, Kirk surprised Illinois business, labor, political and religious leaders by voting against “cloture,” a procedure to avoid a filibuster and keep the bill alive. He was pushing for more border security, yet several other Republicans helped to move the bill forward.
It doesn’t help that Kirk has committed worrisome verbal gaffes related to this issue.
In 2014, as migrant children fleeing violence in Central America came over the U.S.-Mexico border by the thousands, Kirk tried to connect the crisis to his anti-gang crusade, the Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief, Lynn Sweet, reported. In doing so, he painted the kids as criminals by using inflammatory language.
Sweet reported that on Twitter, Kirk wrote: “Just learned 429 minors from border crisis are now in Chicago, but State Dept. can’t say if any has criminal record.”
“He comes off as just mean,” Sweet wrote.
Kirk later toned down his rhetoric.
To his credit, Kirk last year voted against legislation that would have punished so-called sanctuary cities and counties that spell out when local enforcement will cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants. Chicago and Cook County have sanctuary ordinances.
Still, my sense is that you just never know what Kirk is going to do.
Follow Marlen Garcia on Twitter: Follow @MarlenGarcia777