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.
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Stumping for Mr. Chico on Friday at a candidate forum hosted by the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Representative Gutierrez said, “the DREAM kid needed something [Emanuel] could have afforded him – somebody who stood up for them and said no to Sensenbrenner … we could have defeated the Sensenbrenner bill.”Skip to next paragraph
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Also at the forum, Claudio Holzer, a Roman Catholic priest who represented a local woman whose deportation in 2005 was met with massive protests from Chicago’s Hispanic community, criticized Emanuel for not intervening on her behalf. “Rahm Emanuel didn’t move one finger for her,” said Father Holzer.
Earlier that day, at a debate sponsored by the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, Emanuel defended his immigration record, saying he supported the DREAM Act and that, while in the White House, he was responsible for pulling “a bipartisan meeting together with Democrats and Republicans in the House to say, ‘How do we make progress?' ”
Immigration reform is a hot topic in Chicago, where the Hispanic population has jumped 3 percentage points between 2000 and 2009 to make up one-quarter of total residents, according to the US Census Bureau. On Thursday, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution urging President Obama to use his executive powers to stop deportations of undocumented workers if it separates them from their families.
Hispanics represent 15 percent of Chicago’s 1.5 million registered voters, according to city election officials. With their clout at the ballot box rising, they are being avidly courted by major candidates ahead of the mayoral election.
Emanuel's immigration reform credentials have been discredited by several candidates, among them Mr. Chico, a former Chicago schools president and chief of staff to Mayor Daley; former US Sen. Carol Moseley Braun; and Miguel del Valle, the city’s clerk and a former state senator.
Chico is Mexican-American and emphasizes his neighborhood roots on the Southwest Side, which is predominantly Latino. Mr. del Valle has stressed his life story as a child immigrant from Puerto Rico who became Illinois’s first Hispanic state senator in 1987. With two Hispanic candidates to choose from, the Latino vote is expected to be divided – some would say diluted. Neither candidate gives any indication of dropping out to try to solidify the Hispanic vote and lift the chances that a Hispanic might win the mayor's seat.
Hispanic voters are largely undecided, according to a Chicago Tribune/WGN poll conducted in December. Thirty-six percent of Hispanics polled did not declare support for a single candidate. Emanuel was the top choice among those who did, with 27 percent. Del Valle was next with 14 percent, and Chico had 12 percent.