Schneider, Bennett support immigration reform, disagree over border wall
However, Bennett said he'd also support President Donald Trump's plan to build a wall across the southern U.S. border if other immigration legislation would be enacted, too. Schneider opposes a wall.
Schneider and Bennett, both of Deerfield, are running for Illinois' 10th Congressional District seat in the Nov. 6 election. They spoke about immigration and other issues in a joint Daily Herald interview and in questionnaires.
An estimated 11 million immigrants live in the U.S. illegally, according to a think tank called the Migration Policy Institute. Most come from Mexico and Central America, the group's data indicates.
Bennett's support of a path to citizenship breaks from Republican Party tradition and Trump's agenda. He said his position is based on the fiscal reality of the situation.
"We need to provide a path to citizenship for the people who are here illegally, because we're not going to spend the money to get them out," said Bennett, a computer consultant, making his fourth bid for elected office.
He suggests creating a probationary period for undocumented immigrants that would allow them to get emergency medical care and take English lessons. They should be allowed to get tax ID numbers to work legally but also have to take an English language proficiency test to move forward, Bennett said.
Anyone who commits a felony in that probationary period would be deported.
"It's not amnesty, but it's not all harsh," Bennett said.
Additionally, Bennett said the government should make sure employers use the E-Verify system to confirm employees are authorized to work in the U.S.
"That'll help stem the tide at the border," he said.
Bennett said he'd support Trump's wall if it was part of a greater reform package.
"If the price of this is building some concrete wall and having Don put his name on it, then I don't care," Bennett said.
He also criticized some policies regarding legal immigration, particularly one that's forced some visa applicants to wait more than a decade for approval.
"Our visa system must be modernized," Bennett said. "We must have a system in place to efficiently support those who enter the county legally, ending lengthy waits."
Schneider, who is seeking his third term in Congress, backed a 2013 immigration reform effort that included a pathway to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants as well as increased border security.
That legislation cleared the Senate but never came up for a vote in the House. Schneider said "extremists" in the Republican Party opposed it.
Five years later, Schneider still wants immigration reform.
"Reforming our broken immigration system is not just the right thing to do, it will also grow our economy and make our communities stronger," he said.
Schneider said Trump created an unnecessary crisis last year by ending protections from deportation for young undocumented immigrants. Schneider co-sponsored bipartisan legislation called the USA Act he said would give those immigrants permanent legal status while also investing in border security.
The bill never made it out of a subcommittee.
As for Trump's border wall, Schneider called it "wasteful and unnecessary." It wouldn't solve the problem of illegal immigration, it would divide border communities and it would militarize those communities, he said.
"There are both smarter and more effective ways to secure our border," he said.
Additionally, Schneider criticized efforts by the White House to restrict legal immigration, limit refugees and asylum-seekers and separate immigrant families.
The 10th District includes parts of Cook and Lake counties.