U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) is turning up the heat on a suburban Chicago Republican who he says could help push an immigration overhaul through the House.
Durbin, an architect of a sweeping immigration bill that passed the Senate, held a roundtable about the legislation Monday at Wheaton College. The evangelical Christian school stands in the district of Rep. Peter Roskam, the House Republican chief deputy whip.
“If [Roskam] will become a voice for comprehensive immigration reform, it will go a long way,” Durbin told reporters after the event. “The point in coming here was to reach out into the suburban community and let them know that the support for immigration reform goes way beyond the Democrats who have been talking about it for a long time.”
Durbin’s roundtable included Illinois Chamber of Commerce chief Doug Whitley, Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital President David Fox, and Matthew Soerens of World Relief, an evangelical humanitarian agency.
“What you heard today from the evangelical community is there’s strong support for this comprehensive immigration reform,” Durbin said.
The senator urged Roskam to join a fellow Illinois Republican, Rep. Aaron Schock, who appears to support a path to citizenship as part of immigration legislation. Schock described his position in a video that surfaced last week. The recording shows Schock embracing probationary legal status for undocumented immigrants after they pay a penalty and back taxes. Their shot at citizenship, Schock said, would depend on a determination that border security measures had been met.
A spokeswoman for Roskam, who is home for the August Congressional recess, did not grant a WBEZ request to interview the congressman about Durbin’s roundtable. She pointed to a July interview with WBEZ’s Morning Shift in which Roskam said his constituents “have a very low view of massive bills that attempt to try and do everything all at once.”
“First we need a [secure] border and then we need to deal with high-skilled and then guest workers and to create an environment where you can get to the next question,” Roskam said in the interview. “An overwhelming majority of Americans say, ‘I just want to get [immigration] fixed. Show me a thoughtful direction and a thoughtful plan to get that done and I’m willing to hear you out and follow along.’ ”
At Wheaton, Durbin described Roskam’s approach as unworkable. As evidence, he cited his efforts to lay a path to citizenship for some undocumented youths who grew up in the United States and attended college or joined the military.
“I tried for the DREAM Act by myself for years,” Durbin said. “I couldn’t get it done in the Senate until I put it into a bill that included border enforcement. Now we finally have the DREAM Act passed in the Senate.”