Gov. Bruce Rauner and Archbishop Blase Cupich told a welcoming crowd at an immigration reform panel discussion Monday that the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform because it is morally right and will strengthen families and young people.
Rauner, noting that Illinois and the nation are made up of immigrants, recounted how his father’s family came to Illinois in 1854 from Germany; his mother’s family came from Sweden in the late 1800s; his wife’s family, who are Jewish, escaped prosecution in central Europe; and his lieutenant governor’s family came from Ecuador and Cuba.
“We are all here to pursue the American dream,” Rauner told the gathering at St. Ignatius College Prep, 1076 W. Roosevelt Rd.
He said he supports residents becoming American citizens but did not elaborate on what role he would play in making that happen.
Cupich won a standing ovation after starting his speech by speaking fluent Spanish.
“We need a comprehensive fix,” he said, noting that if Congress disagrees with President Obama’s executive order protecting certain undocumented immigrants from deportation, then Congress should pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Cupich said the issue affects many nationalities.
“I want to be very clear: This is about many people — Eastern European families, Asian families, Polish families and others who are here without documentation,” he said. “Comprehensive immigration reform is about the good of families; not just the rights of individuals. It is also about the good of cities and neighborhoods.
“Over the last years, families are being split apart; this weakens the nation’s social fabric because it weakens immigrant communities,” Cupich said.
“I see it in the faces of young people. They are losing confidence. They are our future leaders.”
Cupich said the country cannot have it both ways — benefiting from immigrants’ work, yet denying them key rights.
“Let’s be honest. Our country benefits from the toil, the taxes, the purcharsing power of a large number — an estimated 8 million — undocumented workers,” he said. “Yet we do not at the same time offer them the protection of law. We can’t exploit and use these people without honoring their God-given rights. We cannot exploit these people.”
When the panel was asked about the need for border control and national security while still honoring immigrants, Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said he believes “a free and open society” (such as America’s) will always be militarily stronger than a closed society.
Kirk said he favors a “brain drain” in which America benefits from “everyone with skills” coming to America, such as the scientists who fled Europe during World War II and ultimately produced the atomic bomb in Chicago.
Rauner said it’s not about Democrats or Republicans, and should not be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion.
“It’s about America,” he said. “We should cherish and celebrate our role as a beacon of hope for people around the world to come here.”
Rauner said he is working for Illinois to have “world-class schools” in every community; to bring back vocational training to schools, and to reallocate money away from government bureaucracy and into social services — all efforts to ensure that people such as immigrants have the resources to become successful.