Chicago's Latinos get an earful on Rahm Emanuel's immigration record
Latino voters, likely to be a key bloc in the Chicago mayor's race, get conflicting reports from candidate Rahm Emanuel and his rivals concerning his record on immigration policy.
Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel is taking some heat over US immigration policy, with critics and election rivals saying he did not do enough while serving in Washington to push for reforms that would help certain subsets of illegal immigrants.Skip to next paragraph
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Specifically, his rivals in the race to replace longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley say Mr. Emanuel should have done more to push for legislation that would stop deportations of illegal workers whose children are US citizens, on grounds of keeping families together. They also speculate that Emanuel, in his former position as White House chief of staff, could have helped to gain Senate passage of the DREAM Act, a bill aimed at helping young people who were brought to the US as children a pathway to American citizenship. It fell two votes short last month (by which time Emanuel had left the White House).
The backdrop in this mayoral race is the rising clout of Chicago's Hispanic voters. Among the major mayoral candidates, two are Hispanic. The conventional political wisdom is that, in splitting their community, neither will win, but many analysts expect the Latino vote could be kingmaker in the likely event of a two-person run-off contest after the Feb. 22 election.
On the day before his immigration critics spoke out, Emanuel had announced his plan to launch a local version of the DREAM Act, which would make undocumented students between the ages of 12 and 25 eligible for low-interest college loans.
“Just because Congress has yet to pass the DREAM Act doesn't mean we will wait for progress in Chicago,” he said in a statement.
The next day, he came under fire from US Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D) of Illinois, a national immigration rights advocate who is endorsing Gery Chico for mayor. Mr. Gutierrez charged that back in 2005, when Emanuel was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he recommended that moderate House Democrats facing close races the next year go ahead and vote for a tough immigration bill – one that was unpopular with much of the Latino community. Sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R) of Wisconsin, the legislation called for construction of more border fence and gave local law-enforcement officials greater incentive to check immigration status of offenders and to turn them over to federal authorities. The House approved the bill and, though it stalled in the Senate, the legislation fanned an already-hot immigration debate and prompted pro-immigrant protests across the US.