Republican senate candidates disagree about whether a border wall is the solution to illegal immigration
The five Republicans running for the chance to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin all call for stronger efforts to thwart illegal immigration -- but they disagree about whether a wall across the Mexican border is the best solution.
During a joint endorsement interview Friday at the Daily Herald offices in Arlington Heights, three of the GOP hopefuls enthusiastically supported President Donald Trump's plan to build that border wall, sections of which have been erected. Two said they prefer other options, such as airborne drones.
The candidates in the March 17 primary are: retired information technology professional Casey Chlebek of Glenview; former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran of Libertyville; former police officer Peggy Hubbard of Belleville; Dr. Robert Marshall, a physician from Burr Ridge; and Dr. Tom Tarter, a urological oncologist from Springfield.
The winner will face Durbin, a four-tern incumbent from Springfield, in November.
Tarter said walls have reduced illegal immigration where they've been built along the border. He wants the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to get enough funding to complete 450 miles of wall.
"Walls work," he said. "This is why Democrats don't want them -- at least the open-border Democrats."
Tarter said the government should implement technology that will help detect the attempted importation of illegal drugs and track migrants.
Additionally, Tarter said immigration applications should use a merit-based system that awards points for work history, education, speaking English, community service and "evidence of assimilation."
Marshall said he's "100% in favor" of completing the border wall. He called for tighter immigration policies and said he opposes comprehensive immigration reform, calling it "a code word for amnesty."
Marshall said immigrants should have to meet three criteria to live in the U.S.: they should be able to support themselves; they should be able to speak English "to a minimal degree" or be willing to learn; and they "should love us and not want to blow us up."
Hubbard said she supports Trump's efforts to secure U.S. borders. Like Tarter, she said walls work -- but she also advocated using technology and putting "more boots on the ground" at the border.
Hubbard lauded the president for sending military troops to the border in 2018 as a caravan of migrants from Central America approached the U.S.
Hubbard supported shifting to a merit-based immigration system, too.
Curran was an outspoken advocate of immigration reform during the last eight years of his 12-year tenure as sheriff, which concluded in 2018.
In 2011, Curran said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should "quit wasting time breaking up families, because it makes America a lesser country." The following year, he backed a proposal that would allow people living here illegally to get driver's licenses so they could get to work.
On Friday, Curran said a wall across the southern border makes a statement about American sovereignty -- "but it's going to be very expensive."
Curran said drones and other high-tech security equipment could more effectively stop border incursions.
"We've seen all the videos of people going underneath the walls, and creating these tunnels," he said.
Curran also voiced concerns about radical Islamists getting into the U.S. "The wall alone is not going to keep America safe," he said.
Chlebek wants a different approach to protecting U.S. borders, too. Walls can be breached, he said, and the project is too costly.
Technology should make a border wall "irrelevant," Chlebek said.
"People are ready for it and expect it," he said.
If high-tech programs aren't implemented, however, Chlebek said he'd support completing the wall.