Krishnamoorthi, 8th District challengers debate immigration reform
All three candidates in the March 17 Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District identify immigration reform among their top priorities, though they disagree over whether attaining citizenship should be a process or a one-day action.
Challenger William Olson of Schaumburg names immigration reform his most pressing issue, and said he's already written a draft bill called "An Act to Establish a Uniform Rule of Naturalization" to be considered.
"It would provision citizenship to those in the United States desirous of it," Olson said. "They could make application at any common court of law to do so."
His fellow candidates are themselves immigrants. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi came to the United States from India as an infant, while Inam Hussain of Libertyville hails from Pakistan.
Though Olson does not describe his position on border security as "open borders," he believes anyone physically within the U.S. should have the right to become a citizen, and ports of entry should be places of commerce and cultural exchange.
He strongly criticized the practice of separating children from their families at borders.
"My opponent (Krishnamoorthi) has asserted like most every other member in the U.S. Congress that he supports comprehensive immigration reform," Olson said. "I might submit comprehensive immigration reform is a euphemism for a status quo of barbarism."
But Krishnamoorthi said he supports reforms that would provide security enhancements at the border while also allowing immigrants -- including millions already in the country -- the same opportunity to succeed that his family received.
He and his fellow candidates touched on whether they thought the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act provided adequate protection of those for whom it was intended.
"With regard to DREAMers -- those are children who were brought here to this country -- they should certainly be allowed to stay, and that's why I'm an original co-sponsor of H.R. 6, which is the Dream and Promise Act, which would allow them a pathway to citizenship because they are some of the finest people you'll ever meet," Krishnamoorthi said. "Finally, I'm very deeply disturbed by the way the Trump Administration has conducted our immigration policy. We should never separate children from families, we should never do anything that would treat people without the dignity and respect they deserve."
Hussain said U.S. immigration policy must begin with a realization that nearly all Americans came from somewhere else, whether Europe centuries ago or other continents in more recent decades.
"So we have to have a comprehensive immigration policy, which we keep on postponing from one Congress to another for the last 10 years," Hussain said. "We cannot grant everyone from day one, but the (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) people have to be in front of that. ... Of course, our borders cannot be open, but we cannot have the so-called wall."
Hussain criticized the concept of a U.S.-Mexico border wall and the use of defense funding to construct it.
"I think we have to have solid plans," Hussain added. "We cannot keep on pushing this can to the next Congress or next group of people who can make the policy."
The 8th District is roughly centered in Schaumburg and includes areas of northwest Cook, northeast DuPage and northeast Kane counties.
Hussain does not reside in the 8th District, but congressional candidates are not required to live in the districts they seek to represent, either before or after election.
Chapters of the League of Women Voters are hosting upcoming candidate forums to which the three hopefuls have been invited. One is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Ave. in Elgin, and the other is at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Schaumburg Township District Library, 130 S. Roselle Road in Schaumburg.
Republicans have not yet slated a 8th District candidate for the Nov. 3 general election.