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Local

Congressmen: Go to back of line for citizenship

Kinzinger, Bustos mum on Senate bill

Cheri Bustos and Adam Kinzinger.
Cheri Bustos and Adam Kinzinger.

The Sauk Valley’s members of Congress won’t say how they stand on a Senate proposal to give legal status to illegal immigrants. But they say such immigrants should go to the back of the line for citizenship.

Spokesmen for Reps. Adam Kinzinger, R-Manteno, and Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, agreed that the federal government needs to determine the status of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Under a bipartisan Senate proposal, illegal immigrants would get provisional legal status for 10 years, allowing them to work but barring them from federal benefits. After that, they could get green cards, giving them permanent legal status.

After 3 years, those with the green cards could petition for citizenship. That would be contingent on paying fines and learning English, as well as the federal government increasing border security.

“What we have now is de facto amnesty,” said Zach Hunter, a spokesman for Kinzinger. “We need these 11 million people to come out of the shadows.”

But he said Kinzinger, who represents Lee County, opposes any proposal that would allow illegal immigrants to cut in line ahead of those already seeking citizenship.

“There are huge economic benefits from immigrant reform,” Hunter said. “There are millions of people who want to work and be productive. That’s exactly what we need right now.”

He said Kinzinger also understands the human element, with hundreds of illegal immigrants perishing in their trek across the Southwestern border.

“No one really likes the situation we’re in. No one is excited that we have to come to a decision,” Hunter said. “In the House and the Senate, everyone is trying to work together to come to some sort of agreement.”

Bustos is encouraged that the two sides are coming together on immigration, spokesman Colin Milligan said. Bustos, who represents Whiteside County, wants a law to secure the border and crack down on employers who undermine U.S. workers by knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, Milligan said.

“One of her concerns is that illegal immigrants are driving down the wages for American workers,” he said.

Immigrants working toward legal status should be required to pass a background check, learn English, pay taxes and go to the back of the line, Milligan said.

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