CHAMPAIGN — A coalition of local labor unions and community and church groups Tuesday called on U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, to support a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes "an attainable pathway to citizenship."
Members of the groups delivered a letter making the request to Davis' Champaign office. He was not present.
Davis' spokesman, Andrew Flach, said the congressman has an "open mind" on the issue and that he had met with representatives of the Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum last month.
He also said that Davis has received "a lot of communication from both sides" on the issue.
"Congressman Davis understands and acknowledges that immigration reform is an issue that must be addressed by this Congress. That's why he has met with immigration groups, agriculture groups, labor groups, business groups and other constituents to discuss immigration reform proposals and the best path forward for the country," said Flach. "Congressman Davis remains firm in his belief that we must start by fixing the problems that led to our broken immigration system in the first place before we can address those who are here as undocumented immigrants, which is precisely what the House is planning to do. In the coming months, Congressman Davis will be reviewing bills as they are introduced by the House Judiciary Committee and looks forward to reviewing any other bill offered to address the issues with our immigration system."
In a candidate questionnaire last year, Davis said that the United States "must first continue to do to more to secure our borders to stem the flow of illegal immigrants. Increased border patrols, finishing border fences and continuing our vigilance through enforcement are keys to controlling the number of illegal immigrants coming to the United States."
Among other requirements he said that employers should be "capable of quickly and accurately verifying the eligibility of those who they are hiring," and that any "path to citizenship for those here illegally must not be a path which places them before others who are going through the process legally."
But last month Davis said the immigration reform bill passed by the Senate "is dead on arrival," specifically citing provisions that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to determine when borders are secure.
"Janet Napolitano has said that our border has never been more secure," said a skeptical Davis.
Mike Doyle, executive director of the University YMCA and a member of the Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum, said that the coalition that presented Davis with the letter Tuesday doesn't necessarily favor the bill that cleared the Senate.
"We're not completely happy with the Senate bill. There are a lot of things in there that we think aren't very good, too much emphasis on border security and too much money wasted that way," he said. "But the path to citizenship is one of the most important things in there."
Lorenzo Macedo, a member of the C-U Immigration Forum who emigrated from Mexico 14 years and recently became a U.S. citizen, noted that Davis "was there to welcome us that day.
"It is a contrast because now I can go freely to travel or work. But behind me I have a family that can't. We need to push, we need to do something. He needs to do something that will give all these people, not only my family, but there are thousands, there are millions."
Macedo said he thinks any immigration bill must include a path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million people who are here illegally.
"They need to concentrate on the people who are here already," he said. "There are a lot of people who have done good here for many years. There's nothing but good people. They need to do something with the good people who are here already."
But the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., said Monday that he opposed what he called a "special" path to citizenship.
"The folks who want to have a path to citizenship have held everything else hostage," Goodlatte said, according to the Associated Press. "Now we want to say, 'Look we understand what you want but we think a legal status in the United States but not a special path to citizenship might be appropriate'" once steps including border security have been accomplished.