How Roskam, Howland differ on immigration reform

 
 
Updated 10/4/2016 5:56 AM
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  • Democratic challenger Amanda Howland and Republican incumbent Peter Roskam are candidates for 6th Congressional District seat.

    Democratic challenger Amanda Howland and Republican incumbent Peter Roskam are candidates for 6th Congressional District seat.

  • U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, says the border must be secured before other steps can be taken to reform the country's immigration policy.

      U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, a Wheaton Republican, says the border must be secured before other steps can be taken to reform the country's immigration policy. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Lake Zurich Democrat Amanda Howland, who is seeking election to the 6th Congressional District seat, says a legal path to citizenship is needed.

      Lake Zurich Democrat Amanda Howland, who is seeking election to the 6th Congressional District seat, says a legal path to citizenship is needed. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Congressional challenger Amanda Howland says a legal path to citizenship must be created for some of the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country.

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam -- the Republican incumbent Howland is trying to unseat in the Nov. 8 election -- says the federal government must first show it can secure the nation's borders.

But both candidates vying for the 6th Congressional District seat agree a border wall shouldn't be built between the U.S. and Mexico.

"I think the immigration debate goes to the security of the southern border in particular and less about a wall," Roskam said during a Monday endorsement interview with the Daily Herald.

After the border is made more secure -- without a wall -- other steps could be taken, he said.

Roskam said those steps may include creating a guest worker program for low-wage workers and launching an initiative encouraging "high-skilled" workers from other countries to stay here.

Only then can federal lawmakers can "take a step back" and decide what should happen to the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally.

"I'm of the view that you can have an entirely different discussion that is more fruitful and more productive," said Roskam, a 55-year-old Wheaton Republican.

"But those things have got to be secured and in place."

Howland, a Lake Zurich Democrat, said during her endorsement interview that she agrees the country must have a strong border.

However, she says there needs to be an acknowledgment that up to 40 percent of the individuals living here illegally arrived legally and overstayed their visas.

"Yes, we need to maintain and patrol our southern border," the 63-year-old attorney said. "Do I think building a wall is going to solve the problem? No. It's going to be a huge expense, and there will be ways around it. People are going to come in regardless of whether or not there's a wall there."

Howland said authorities need to pay more attention to who is coming and going and reduce the number of people overstaying their visas.

In the meantime, she said she believes a compromise can be reached on creating a path to citizenship for many.

"I think there should be a path to citizenship for people who have been here, who are invested in this country, who are working, who are contributing," Howland said.

Roskam didn't take a position on whether there should be a path to citizenship.

But he said he doesn't believe the American public will give the federal government the type of power needed to deport 11 million people.

Removing that many "customers" from the country also would have an impact on the economy.

"What we end up doing is an open question," Roskam said.

"But I think you'd have a far more fruitful discussion if people feel like the border is actually secure."

The 6th District stretches from Naperville to Tower Lakes and includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

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