Ahead of Primary, Illinois Leaders Call for a Better Conversation on Immigration

Communications Associate

March 10, 2016

CHICAGO — Local leaders gathered Wednesday night for a panel discussion here to encourage a more positive conversation on immigrants and immigration reform.

Panelists called for an end to anti-immigrant rhetoric, emphasized immigrants’ contributions to our communities and economy and stressed the need for common sense immigration reform.

The following are quotes from speakers at Wednesday’s event:

Mark Harris, President of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition:
“Immigrants play an integral role in the growth and success of the research and tech economy. The time is now to come together to find meaningful immigration solutions to advance our state and nation’s global competitiveness, provide stability for more hard working families, and continue to cultivate, attract and retain innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Billy Lawless, Owner of the Gage and Acanto restaurants and Steering Committee member of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition:
“Congress needs to take its head out of the sand and listen to the majority of the American people. 70% of them favor a path to legalization for the undocumented. The rhetoric from the top Republican contenders is not in tune with their constituents.”

Michael Masters, Senior Vice President, The Soufan Group:
“Common sense immigration reform begins with a willingness to understand and respect our history as a nation of immigrants. The current system fosters a climate of fear and mistrust, where the job of law enforcement is made more difficult as criminals prey on the most vulnerable, and individuals remain afraid to report crime for fear of deportation. Where we demonize those who simply seek a better life for themselves and their families, we ignore the lessons of our history, play into the hands of our adversaries and undermine the very fabric of our national identity. Instead, we must work to bring people out from the shadows, build communities of trust, and reinforce the safety and security of our whole community.”

Dina Smeltz, Senior Fellow for Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, Chicago Council on Global Affairs:
“The extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from some of the GOP primary candidates — and the subsequent media coverage — might lead many to believe that the American electorate shares these views. But that would be wrong. Several public opinion polls, including the Chicago Council Survey, consistently show that a majority of the American public supports immigration reform and a path to citizenship.”