Mark Weyermuller

Weyermuller: Do Illinois Republicans Want Amnesty?

Are Illinois republicans supporting immigration reform for illegal aliens?  The “establishment” Republican party held a press conference Tuesday with over 400 people in attendance at Chicago Club. This major public policy event, sponsored by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, was attended by over 400 people.
The IBIC Principles for immigration reform are visa expansions for high skilled, low skilled, and agricultural workers, legalization and citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Illinois Review contributors were here, including Nancy Thorner covering the “pro-American/Anti-Amnesty Rally” outside across the street in Grant Park while I was inside the venue watching the press conference.  Read more in her Illinois Review story including the large police presence watching these flag waving harmless law abiding patriots.  Former congressman Joe Walsh helped lead the rally outside.  Their  theme was “Save the American Worker.”
Inside the posh Chicago Club, the event was hosted by Exelon’s CEO John Rowe.  He was joined by Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Doug Whitley. They introduced a variety of  business leaders to discuss the moral, economic, and political aspects of reform.  They included Carol Segal, co-founder of Crate and Barrel, Doug Oberhelman, CEO of Caterpillar, Sue Gin, CEO Flying Food Group, Joe Green, CEO of FWD,US, and Sergio Suarez, CEO of NAIMA.
Next up, a variety of Illinois politicians and candidates spoke. They were all seated together in the second row (see photo).  Each spoke for about two minutes including Dennis Hastert, Jim Edgar, Christine Radogno, Jim Durkin, Judy Barr Topinka, Tom Cross, Jim Oberweis, and Bruce Rauner.  Appearing on video were Aaron Schock and Adam Kinzinger.  Also up front introduced but not speaking were Bob Dold, Darlene Senger, and Evelyn Sanguinetti.  It was a “Who’s Who” of Illinois Republicans past and present.
I don’t believe the words “amnesty, open borders, or  illegal  alien” were ever used in this 60 minute presentation.  One reporter next to me called it a “dog and pony” show.  Others felt this was pandering by the Republican party without any serious legislative plan which would have to have democratic support.  It was obviously well organized and well orchestrated. Over 100 media people attended yet there was no mention on the 10:00 pm local news on 2,5, or 7 but I did see it several times on CLTV.  There was a fair amount of print and internet coverage.  The Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs 100th anniversary, and the surge of violence on Chicago Streets seemed to dominate most local news.
Both Jim Oberweis and Bruce Rauner spoke of “pro-reform” yet seemed to hedge on specifics.  Oberweis received the least applause after his remarks. In my opinion, much of this was all about votes.  In fact it was much about “Hispanic votes.”
Two hours before this event downtown, I attended another conservative event at a private catholic school in Wicker Park (3 miles away). Presidential hopeful Kentucky Senator Rand Paul spoke to 300 conservatives on school choice sponsored by the Illinois Policy Institute.  There were virtually no republicans who attended both events other than me.  Perhaps this shows the divide in the Illinois Republican Party between conservatives (some call the tea party) and the establishment.
Whether you call these residents illegal aliens or undocumented workers, most would agree that something should be done with some type of reform.  The question is what to do. With an election approaching in November, politicians are jumping on the band wagon to win hearts and minds, then ultimately votes. The election is Tuesday, November 4, 2014.

Story and photos by Mark Weyermuller