Stir up fear. Make people hostile toward immigrants. The strategy works for President Donald Trump. So why not pile on?
That’s the attitude of too many Republicans across the United States, including some in Illinois this year who have taken cheap shots at undocumented immigrants in their bids to be elected or re-elected to office on Nov. 6.
Take, for example, the campaign to elect Republican James Mendrick as sheriff of DuPage County. Under the headline “fighting illegal immigration,” a campaign mailing earlier this year said Mendrick would crack down on violent criminals, protect children and keep schools safe.
Making a connection between undocumented immigrants and crime is a snake-oil trick long used by anti-immigrant conservatives.
The mailing also claimed Mendrick would “make our communities safer by ending illegal immigration.”
So Mendrick can do what no president and congressional body have been able to do in modern times and end illegal immigration? We asked his campaign team how he would do it. He was too busy with “back to back meetings and campaign events” to get back to us, according to his spokeswoman.
Here’s what politicians like Mendrick and Gov. Bruce Rauner must remember: When they make unsubstantiated claims regarding undocumented immigrants, they are helping to create a world of hate.
They are, similar to Trump, telling people it’s OK to lash out at immigrants. It’s OK to say, “We’re going to call immigration on you,” to teens who are Latino while they play in youth soccer games.
It’s OK for similar ugly words to be spewed at an immigrant over spilled coffee at a bus stop. That actually happened to someone we know.
This is the price our society pays for the ugly rhetoric of Donald Trump and others who think it’s OK to bash immigrants.
Trump is treating a caravan of poor Central American migrants heading to the U.S. to escape poverty and dangerous gangs, which is a humanitarian crisis, as an attack on America that must be thwarted by the military. It’s election time. He’ll do anything to bring out his core group of conservative supporters.
During this election year, we have come across a handful of Illinois Republicans who have taken a page out of Trump’s playbook.
In an endorsement interview at the Sun-Times earlier this month with Democratic opponent J.B. Pritzker, our governor, Republican Bruce Rauner, made a giant leap by linking undocumented immigrants to violence in Chicago.
“One of the reasons we have such high unemployment in the city of Chicago, and so much crime, is the massive number of illegal immigrants here to take jobs away from American citizens in Chicago,” Rauner said.
The governor, like other politicians who take pot shots at immigrants, had no research to back this claim.
Rauner should know that many immigrants take jobs Americans won’t do — in hospitality, factories, slaughterhouses and farming. Those industries would collapse without undocumented immigrants in the labor force.
Undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and have received permission to work on a temporary basis contribute $42 billion in annual gross domestic product. We’ve met teachers, programmers and medical students who are undocumented immigrants. They’re going into fields that have staffing shortages. We need them.
Rauner signed a bill last year, the Trust Act, that prohibits cops from stopping or searching people based on immigration status unless cops have a criminal warrant. Now, he’s trying to shore up conservative voters.
We were also disappointed by another politician, Cook County Commissioner Gregg Goslin, a Republican who is running for re-election in the north suburbs. During an endorsement interview, we asked how he would help protect the county health care system if the Trump administration succeeded in getting rid of Obamacare.
“It would be a nightmare,” Goslin said. “It’s a big public hospital. We have a lot of undocumenteds — gotta say the word because it’s true — that we get no money for. Matter of fact, we can’t even ask people if they’re citizens. It’s against the law. But that is a genuine problem.”
We asked for the cost of caring for undocumented immigrants. Goslin couldn’t provide it. The county doesn’t track it.
Health care for undocumented immigrants who use the county hospital system falls under charity care. Yes, there’s a cost for it.
But like everyone else who lives in Cook County, undocumented immigrants pay taxes to the county. They pay property taxes either directly or through rent. They pay sales taxes, no different than anyone else. They help to prop up the system.
“I don’t buy the idea that they’re freeloading,” Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO of Cook County Health and Hospitals System told the Sun-Times Editorial Board.
All Goslin sees is a burden. In that sense, he’s a lot like Rauner and Mendrick, the candidate for sheriff in DuPage County.
The people — Americans and immigrants alike — deserve better.
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