Though he is open to some form of leniency for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, Congressman Randy Hultgren said this week he is not in favor of the Senate's version of immigration reform recently touted by local Democrats.
Speaking to members of area chambers of commerce, Hultgren said the House will break up immigration reform into four parts: border security, green cards for foreign graduates of U.S. universities, a no-fault policy for undocumented youths, and a plan to deal with adults who knowingly entered the country illegally.
Though the Senate bill crafted by Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin would double the number of border patrol agents, Hultgren said border security must be enhanced and show results before any of the other elements moves forward.
"I see the engine of this immigration ship not working," said Hultgren, a Winfield Republican. "The bureaucracy is failing. But I also see on the ship that we've got a leak -- we don't know who is coming in and out across our borders. If you have a ship that has an engine that is not working and a leak in the bottom, what do you fix first? You fix the leak. My fear is we're not really enforcing (immigration laws) right now."
Though the Pew Hispanic Center reported the net flow of immigration from Mexico had dropped to zero in 2012, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency still reported 356,873 arrests of people attempting entry to the United States along the southwest border.
A border security-first push is not the message people in support of the Senate bill want to hear. Indeed, local supporters said they will conduct a protest outside Hultgren's Geneva district office today.
Hultgren said he's listened to the local concerns and understands there are problems beyond border security that must be fixed. He pointed to the need to keep foreign scientists and their expertise at Fermilab. He also said deporting young undocumented immigrants and people who pose "no threat" to the U.S. should not be the focus of enforcement.
"I don't want to break up families," Hultgren said. "That's not something I take any joy in. Moms taking their kids to school, getting pulled over and deported -- we've got to figure that out. People brought here at 2 months old through no fault of their own -- we've got to address that situation. This is the only nation they know."
Hultgren said all those issues are too important and too complex to tackle in one omnibus bill, as the Senate legislation attempts to do.
"The framework we've got to look through is what's good for our nation, what's good for our economy," Hultgren said.
Hultgren represents the 14th Congressional District, which includes parts of DuPage, Kane, Kendall, McHenry, Lake and Will counties