By Seung Min Kim
April 22, 2014
Two House Republicans from Illinois are endorsing some sort of legal status for immigrants in the country illegally, adding renewed GOP support for immigration reform efforts that have come to a standstill on Capitol Hill.
The statements from Illinois GOP Reps. Aaron Schock and Adam Kinzinger come in twin video testimonials that will be aired during an event this afternoon in Chicago with former House Speaker Dennis Hastert – a rally meant to push fellow Republicans toward an immigration overhaul. The videos were provided to Politico in advance of Tuesday’s event, hosted by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition.
“Quite frankly, I think if a man or a woman likes their American job, wherever they were born, they should be able to keep that job,” Schock says in the video. “We need a clear path to citizenship for workers who are already here and a fair and efficient on-ramp for those who want to come here.”
Schock, who has expressed support for a pathway to citizenship before, made the economic case for reforming the immigration system, arguing that various industries throughout Illinois – such as agriculture – face serious hurdles in trying to hire immigrant workers legally.
And though Kinzinger doesn’t explicitly endorse a shot at citizenship for those in the United States illegally, he called for a way to find a legal status for them.
“We must work hard to come to an agreement on how to bring undocumented workers out of the shadows, legally entering the work force and becoming part of the American melting pot that makes this country great,” Kinzinger says in his testimonial. “However, if we do not adequately secure our borders, we could be facing these same problems a few years down the road, which is why this must be the first step of the reform process.”
Kinzinger, a veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force, also argues that for young undocumented immigrants who want to serve in the military, “we should thank them with legal status.” That debate has become especially charged in recent weeks, with Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)’s effort to include a measure that would allow that in the must-pass defense authorization bill.
While the comments do indicate still some appetite for immigration reform within the House GOP ranks, the broader conference remains largely opposed to taking up an overhaul of immigration laws this year and is still deeply divided on some of the policy fundamentals, including what to do with millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Chances remain low that the Republican-led House will take up immigration reform this year, but Tuesday’s event in Chicago is an effort to try to change that. Key Illinois GOP political figures including Hastert, gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner and two former governors – Jim Edgar and James Thompson – will appear with several Illinois business leaders to pressure their fellow Republicans to do immigration reform.
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