Immigration may be on the national stage, but in Illinois it’s also a key issue in the governor’s race

As she was growing up on the city’s Southwest Side, Jocelyn Aranda’s belief in the power of voting was forged as she watched relatives working long hours for low wages who didn’t feel empowered to speak up for themselves because they weren’t U.S. citizens.

That experience is what spurred Aranda, 19, to spend the past three months knocking on doors in the Little Village neighborhood, registering students at local high schools to vote and trying to galvanize potential voters at community events in advance of the Nov. 6 midterm election. At the top of the ticket, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is trying to fend off a vigorous challenge from Democrat J.B. Pritzker — a race in which the outcome could have ramifications on Illinois’ immigrant community.

Aranda, who says she recently became a naturalized citizen, wants the next governor to understand the immigrant community and shepherd policy and legislation to improve their lives.

“I want them to take action,” said Aranda, a fellow at Enlace Chicago, a Little Village-based community group whose organizers have been critical of Rauner’s stance on immigration. “I want them to stick to their words and what they believe in.”

Fitton said Illinois is considered a “problem child” because of local policies like the Trust Act and Chicago’s Sanctuary City ordinance. The city’s ordinance bars police from letting federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have access to people in local custody. It also prohibits on-duty police officers from talking with ICE officials before a person is released from custody, or allowing ICE agents to use local police facilities for investigations.

“It worsens illegal immigration and encourages more illegal immigration,” Fitton said about local sanctuary policies. “And thwarts federal law.”

Rauner has taken a harder stance on immigration, making comments earlier this month that were later criticized by immigration advocates and have been debunked by previous studies.

“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 take jobs away from American citizens and Chicago citizens,” Rauner said.

Recent legislation

Rauner’s signature on the Trust Act, after rejecting an earlier effort to protect those in the state illegally, was considered a victory by immigration advocates. But conservatives, including Republican primary challenger state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, seized on the law and used it to accuse Rauner of turning Illinois into a sanctuary state.

The backlash has resulted in Rauner trying to win back the conservative base while also not trying to mimic Ives, Redfield said.

“The governor has a difficult political problem and he’s trying to walk a thin line in terms of winning back the conservative base or get (voters) to the position where they are going to say, ‘I don’t like all of Rauner but I don’t want to elect Pritzker,’” Redfield said.

To-do list for next governor

Regardless of who wins next month, Fred Tsao, the senior policy counsel for ICIRR, said the immigrant community will continue to deal with the consequences of Trump’s administration. ICIRR wants to continue pushing for the bills Rauner vetoed and to further restrict the scope of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

“We also would like to see the next governor stand up more boldly against this administration in its attempts to separate our families and break up our community through its enforcement initiatives, and its attempts to undermine family immigration and cut back on refugee resettlement,” Tsao said.

Pritzker has voiced support for undocumented students and for the Trust Act, which Andy Kang, the executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, described as fairly common Democratic positions on immigration. But Kang said he would like to see the next governor go further to implement statewide policies that would welcome more immigrants such as having basic government services available in more languages.

“The next governor, whoever they are, should also begin to think of what kind of society we want to create here in Illinois,” Kang said. “One globally competitive for immigration.”

Aranda would like to see the next governor open up more scholarship opportunities to students who are in the country without legal permission.

On a recent evening, Aranda was among a group of people, mostly teens, munching on chips and pizza at a “Ballot Party” at Yollocalli Arts Reach in Little Village. The group explored the candidates and shared stories about the first time they voted. One felt the experience was cold, while another was greeted with cookies.

Aranda has the most success rallying voters at these types of events where she can motivate younger people who will then go home and share the information with their parents. Because households can include both citizens and immigrants in the country illegally — and because of the heightened fear of ICE — potential voters could be dissuaded if someone simply asks to see their identification, she said. As the evening ended, Aranda told the group to not let their skepticism about politicians keep them from casting a ballot.

“Make your action be worth something,” she told the group.

Twitter @ElviaMalagon, @rap30

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October 29, 2018 at 05:33AM

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