Crespo calls immigration group's protest against him 'almost personal'
A Hoffman Estates Democrat is the first of a series of state representatives to be targeted by an Illinois immigration group unhappy with their policy positions.
Fred Crespo was not home Saturday morning when six members of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights knocked on the door of his home delivering cards and letters representing the estimated 56,000 Illinois children the organization says has lost a parent to deportation.
But Crespo's wife — a nurse who had just returned from a night shift — was, however, and was woken up.
"I know it comes with the job," Crespo said of the house call. "But this is almost personal."
Crespo, a Latino himself of Puerto Rican descent, noted in his five and a half years in office, he's worked closely with immigrants in the community.
While he has voted against several pieces of legislation supported by the coalition, he says, "I can sleep well at night doing things I believe make a difference in our district."
But the ICIRR's Maria Salazar, of Evanston, said Crespo and four other Democratic state representatives including Keith Farnham of Elgin, Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg and Carol Sente of Vernon Hills are being targeted over the next two months for votes against legislation including the Illinois Dream Act, legislation that passed the legislature last summer that would route privately funded college scholarships to children of undocumented immigrants.
Each of the lawmakers represents districts that have high percentages of voters that are Latino, Asian or Middle Eastern, Salazar said.
"We are a ... nonpartisan group. It's not like it's a Republican or a Democratic thing," Salazar said.
"These are representatives who happen to be Democrats."
By voting against the Illinois Dream Act, Salazar said, the representatives are "not supporting (President Barack) Obama," who moved to ease enforcement of nation's immigration laws Friday.
Crespo, the group points out, voted against the Illinois Dream Act, as well as two other pieces of legislation they say would help the cause of immigrants in the state — a 2011 law that would allow local sheriffs to opt out of federal deportation programs and a 2012 law that would ban private prisons from coming to Illinois.
"At that time, I had talked to members of the Latino caucus, and ICIRR," Crespo said. He noted his concern was "where's this money going to come from," and said he suggested placing resources into "things where we can make a difference" — including the state's high dropout rate.
Crespo complained that the coalition, which is a not for profit and eligible for federal and state government grants, is getting involved in politics. He also called the timing of the campaign — a year after some of his votes the group is calling into question — suspect.
Salazar said "this is a long time coming. This is two years of votes. We want to make sure from now on we don't lag behind. He needs to (know) how the community is feeling."
Crespo will face Republican Ramiro Juarez of Streamwood in the November general election. The Coalition, Salazar said, does not support or oppose candidates.
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