How Republican candidates for U.S. 11th District differ on immigration
All three Republican candidates vying for their party's nomination in the U.S. 11th Congressional District race say securing the southern border of the United States is a priority, but the means in which they want to do it -- as well as other ways they would reform immigration -- vary greatly.
The winner of the spring Republican primary will face incumbent Democrat Bill Foster in the November general election. The 11th District covers parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties, including Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge and Joliet.
Herman White, a physicist from Naperville, said he would not build a wall on the southern border because it sends the wrong message to the rest of the world. He said immigration reform must be addressed in "a compassionate and humane way."
"We have to shore up our border ... and identify the resources necessary to be able to make sure people do not cross the border illegally, but putting up a wall does not do that," he said. "If you have people who are looking for a better life, people who are looking for the opportunity to positively contribute to the United States, you want them to come here."
White said addressing labels like "anchor baby," which refers to children born in the United States whose parents came here illegally, is necessary to avoid disenfranchising those children, who are U.S. citizens under the Constitution.
"We have a problem with trying to make sure we don't break up these families," he said, adding, however, that all people living here must adhere to certain rules and responsibilities.
"You have to pay taxes, you have to contribute positively to what we do in this country," he said. "If you don't do that, even if you were born somewhere else, you're not actually doing the right thing in regard to our country."
Nick Stella, a cardiologist from Darien, said if a wall is the best way to secure the southern border in certain areas he would support it.
"But I think to simply say, 'Oh, we build a wall, that's going to secure us,' I think that's just infantile reasoning," he said. "It's not a question of a wall, it's a question of securing the border."
To do that, Stella said he would reassess how military manpower is used in different parts of the world, to see if it would make more sense to relocate some of those people to the border. Additionally, while he believes the "legally correct view" would be to deport everyone who is here illegally, he knows it isn't feasible.
"I think that for those aliens who are here illegally, first and foremost, if you commit a crime, if you are a felon, you are deported. Period. And you do not come back into this country," he said. "If you're somebody who came here like my grandparents came here, because this is the land of opportunity and this is the place where you can come and build a better life ... those people I think we need to say, 'I think there may be a place here for you in the country.'"
"However, you need to register," he added. "Maybe we give them status as legal residents. You need to pay taxes. You need to assimilate into the American life and maybe at some point in time down the road, there's an opportunity to apply for citizenship. There's not amnesty."
Stella said that while people born in the U.S. are clearly citizens, lawmakers need to take a closer look at people who he feels are abusing that right.
"There's an entire industry that has grown on the West Coast of Asians, specifically Chinese, vacationing in the United States, but it just so happens they're eight and a half months pregnant and having their child here," he said.
Tonia Khouri, a small-business owner and DuPage County Board member from Aurora, said she would support construction of a wall along the southern border.
"Enforcing the border is not anti-immigration," she said. "My husband is an immigrant. He came here legally. My father is an immigrant who came here legally. We must enforce the border not only for immigration but national security reasons. That has to be the first step and then we can talk about everything else."
Khouri agreed, however, that building a wall isn't the only step necessary to secure the border.
"Most of our undocumented people are coming from our southern border, they're coming from overstaying visas," she said. "I'm encouraged that Congress is looking at that change in the visa law waiver program, but I think we need to look further into that."
Khouri said she doesn't agree with a path to citizenship and instead, believes in "earned legal status." She said to earn that status, immigrants should be required to complete certain tasks, such as paying administrative fees associated with the earned legal status, as well as fees to cover any programs introduced for their children at school.
"I mean, people need to start contributing to society," she said. "That's how America gets better and better, not by staying in the shadows."