State Rep. Randy Ramey of Carol Stream says Illinois would benefit from an Arizona-type immigration law, one he says he is poised to introduce after next month's election.
"The immigration problem stems from Washington not enforcing the laws we have on the books," said Ramey, running as a Republican for re-election Nov. 2 in House District 55. "If we don't take a serious look at it, you're not being honest with the people of the state of Illinois."
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Ramey said the budget mess means it is time to take a look at enacting tougher state laws. The primary goal, he said, is to reduce the financial strain caused by the estimated 700,000 to 800,000 illegal immigrants in Illinois.
Ramey's proposal would allow police officers to ask about immigration status if someone who is pulled over does not provide identification. The law would be modeled after Arizona's law, which passed in July and was met with a strong outcry from both supporters and opponents.
Ramey cites figures from the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which says illegal immigrants cost Illinois about $3.5 billion in a combination of health care, incarceration and education costs.
"If you're looking at our budget problem and you see an estimation of ($3.5 billion), why would you not take a look at it?" Ramey said. "The numbers have gone up and taxpayers are tired of paying for everyone else."
Ramey said he will introduce the Arizona-style legislation regardless of the election outcome. He said he already has widespread support from other Republicans and many downstate Democrats, as well as members of the Illinois House's Black Caucus.
However, party leaders asked Ramey to hold off until after the election, he said.
Meanwhile, his Democratic opponent, attorney Greg Brownfield of Bartlett, says the matter is not a state issue.
Further, the financial gains made by any laws that result in deportations would be offset by the loss of revenue. While he agrees that some reform to the current law and enforcement is necessary, he said the matter should be taken up by the U.S. government.
"We have to take a critical look at it," he said. "I'm all for the federal government stepping up and doing some appropriate reform. But we are not a border state and I don't think the state should be getting involved in this matter."
Ramey recently introduced a Rapid Repat bill in the House. The federal program, which exists in several states across the U.S., provides an early release and deportation for nonviolent inmates who are illegal immigrants. Once deported, if an illegal immigrant returns to the U.S., he would be considered in violation of parole.
House District 55 covers all of Bartlett and Wayne Township and parts of Carol Stream, St. Charles, South Elgin and Hanover Park.