Immigration and the presidential election: Suburban experts' views

Do a web search on the phrase "the American immigration system is broken," and nearly 1.5 million references pop up, including opinions from presidential rivals Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

But the reasons for the fractured state of immigration in the U.S. and the solutions aren't as obvious as the sound bites would indicate, two local experts say.

The perception of people swarming across the U.S. border illegally is misleading, said David Iglesias, a former New Mexico U.S. attorney and director of Wheaton College's Center for Faith, Politics and Economics.

With respect to Mexico, "there's been a precipitous drop in immigration; we're at levels going back to the Nixon era," Iglesias said. According to a Pew Research Center report, about 870,000 Mexicans came to America from 2009 to 2014, but about 1 million left in the same time period.

Congress has floated several unsuccessful plans to fix the problem, including allowing immigrants here illegally to apply for temporary work visas plus pay a fine and back taxes, which Iglesias supports. Successful applicants would eventually be able to apply for permanent resident status.

"This would bring people out of the shadows so they don't have to worry about being reported," he said. But citizenship should be given only to "people who did it right - who came in legally."

Trump wants to build an "impenetrable physical" wall on the southern border and require Mexico to pay for it. He intends to triple existing border agents and keep anyone entering the U.S. illegally in custody until they are removed.

He wants immigration from countries like Syria and Libya suspended until "extreme vetting" procedures are set up, and new screening policies to ensure applicants share American "values."

Trump also intends to nix two Obama initiatives giving legal status to children brought into the country as minors, and to parents of citizens or legal permanent residents.

Clinton supports the legalization process for minors and parents of legal immigrants. She promises immigration reform with a "pathway to full and equal citizenship." While the Obama administration has deported families, Clinton wants to "enforce immigration laws humanely" and focus on removing people who are a security risk.

She also wants to end rules preventing immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally from returning for up to 10 years depending on the violation, saying it penalizes families.

Trump first advocated removing all immigrants here illegally with a deportation force, then suggested there could be a "softening" for law-abiding ones. Later, Trump said all immigrants here illegally must leave and apply to re-enter. Meanwhile, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto says the country will not pay for a wall.

Clinton has mocked Trump's wall idea. However, as a senator she voted in support of funding and installing fencing along the border in 2006.

An immigration controversy erupted in the suburbs in January when a family from the Christian Pentecostal Center in Schaumburg was deported to Mexico. Religious leaders accused Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents of violating a sanctuary when they used a ruse to get one family member to leave the church, then immediately arrested him.

ICE officials said the agents followed proper procedures and the family was in the U.S. illegally.

The futile journey and the amount of government resources devoted to the case underscores the need for reforms, many on all sides of the issue say.

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