About two weeks ago, Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Illinois) withdrew our state from a federally run program intended to better find illegal immigrants. This program, called Secure Communities, checked the fingerprints of those arrested by local and state police against immigration records.
In a letter to the Department of Homeland Security citing figures from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Quinn explained that he believed that the program failed to act on its accomplished goal -- the deportation of hardened criminals. Quinn argued that the program instead targeted those with lighter crimes or no crimes at all too often.
At the same time, the Illinois State Senate succeeded in passing a DREAM Act to administer private scholarships and financial aid to students brought to this country illegally. The bill still must go through the House and Gov. Quinn before it passes. Anti-illegal immigration activists such as Roy Beck, the executive director of the NumbersUSA organization based in Virginia, strongly objected to the simultaneous pro-immigration actions. He argued that “Illinois is without competition the most pro-illegal immigration state in the country, even before this.”
Meanwhile, immigration advocates like Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights executive director Josh Hoyt were happy to issue such statements as “This is a good day.” This further polarized our state from a growing anti-immigration atmosphere, as seen in the recent controversy over anti-immigration legislation in Arizona.
I believe it is important that, in attempting to end illegal immigration, we do not lose sight of our illegal immigrants. While this may sound paradoxical, it seems that over the years we have come to believe that illegal immigrants are simply a constant drain on our society by being here illegally without the proper paperwork. However, it is important to note that illegal immigrants are just as varied as our legal citizen base.
This was Gov. Quinn's major objection to the program, that it failed to target illegal immigrants with major crimes, a goal that would likely decrease violence in areas that need it most. That it instead targeted many illegal immigrants with no major crimes shows a generalization in the fight against illegal immigration in a time when efficiency in the meeting of task goals in fighting the crime is more necessary than ever.
We should recognize that when there are illegal immigrants that commit major crimes, we must focus on them when we have programs to do so, instead of those who come to this country to obtain and jobs for their families and provide services for the community, like paying $11.2 billion in taxes last year.
On the same token, the criticism of the DREAM Act fails to take into account this same diversity. We must recognize the reality of illegal immigrants that commit a major crime and make communities less safe, as well as the illegal immigrants that deserve a better education and future through the DREAM Act. By giving aid to those who lack major opportunities, we can make a better future by embracing a better-educated generation than those before.
Is there not a place for both a reformed Secure Communities and the DREAM Act, and more legislation that targets individuals for qualities outside of how they came here? Shouldn’t we recognize the diversity of illegal immigrants just as much as our legal citizens?