Chicago community leaders probe U.S. Senator Dick Durbin about comprehensive immigration reform

Senator Durbin and other lawmakers plan to meet with congress to push granting citizenship to 11 million immigrants and bring their concerns to the table

February 4, 2013

Judith Ruiz-Branch

Community leaders in Chicago asked U.S. Senator Dick Durbin some tough questions today about his new comprehensive immigration reform plan.

Sen. Durbin (D., Ill.) said his goals for passing reform come down to this.

“Path to citizenship for those who are willing to earn their way and show that there’s no reason why they should be disqualified and second, bringing families together,” he said.

The diverse group of business and community representatives largely support the plan but still have concerns. 

“Deportations are continuing to happen, our families are continuing to be torn apart every day,” said Lawrence Benito, deputy director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

DREAM Act student Maria Gonzalez echoed the sentiments of other representatives when she said she was concerned about how past criminal records might affect how immigrants qualify for citizenship.

“To some people just coming to this country without authorization is a criminal action,” Gonzalez said. “My parents are not criminals for trying to give us a better chance in life.”

Gonzalez, along with many other representatives, agree that the definition of a criminal needs to be clearly defined so that immigrants can have a fair chance at qualifying for citizenship.

Illinois Restaurant Association President, Sam Toia, said his main concern is how to manage employees who aren’t citizens yet.

“Right now 20 percent of the people of the 2.6 million that work in a hospitality restaurant are undocumented,” Toia said.

Durbin says he’s meeting with members of congress tonight to address their concerns.