11th GOP hopefuls differ on future of 'Dreamers'

Republican candidates vying for their party's nomination in the U.S. 11th Congressional District offer starkly different views on the status of young immigrants who have been protected from deportation under an Obama-era program.

Nick Stella and Constant G. "Connor" Vlakancic are running in the GOP primary Tuesday for the chance to challenge incumbent Democrat Bill Foster in the November general election.

Stella, a cardiologist from Darien, said lawmakers should provide a path to citizenship for so-called "Dreamers," undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children.

"Of course that would go against many people in the Republican Party," Stella, 49, said. "But you know what? We need to look at this isn't a political football. These are real people and real lives."

President Donald Trump last September moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but its fate has been tied up in legal fights. The DACA program, created in 2012 under Obama's executive order, gives two-year work permits and protections from deportation for recipients who have to apply to renew their status.

"If you look at the rationale behind the program, you're taking minors who were brought to this country by their parents," Stella said. "As a minor, you obviously don't have a say in that. You're going with your parents. I don't feel that you can hold those children - some of them are adults now - I don't think you can hold them responsible for breaking the law of entering this country illegally. That is on their parents."

Stella said dreamers should be eligible for citizenship if they meet certain criteria.

"If you've been progressing in your life, either working or going to school, pursuing a career and you've been law-abiding, those are the people we want in this country," Stella said. "I think we need to provide a method by which they can become eventually legally U.S. citizens."

Vlakancic, who owns a company that imports and sells Croatian beer, wine and spirits, opposes a path to citizenship for DACA recipients.

"These dreamers are not so keen on being a citizen of the United States as they are simply to be here without having to look over their shoulder that they're going to be ejected," the Aurora 74-year-old said.

Instead, he proposed giving qualifying young immigrants a "certified inhabitant" status.

"They live here. They work here. They can come and go," Vlakancic said. "Indicative in this, to achieve this status as certified resident inhabitant, they promise to forgo and they swear an affidavit they will never search or seek or try to achieve United States citizenship. Furthermore, they so submit and swear and validate that they will never seek to achieve any form of bringing family or friends or others as a result of their being here and being a registered certified inhabitant."

Stella narrowly lost a primary bid in 2016 to challenge Foster, who invited a DACA recipient as his guest to Trump's State of the Union address in January.

Vlakancic also has unsuccessfully sought elected offices in California and Illinois.

The 11th District covers parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties, including Aurora, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge and Joliet.

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