Focus on illegal immigraton fades

By The Associated Press

CARPENTERSVILLE, Ill. – When village officials in this suburban Chicago community considered hardline anti-illegal immigration stances, like making English the official language, residents rallied in every public forum.

Council meetings overflowed with thousands. Neighborhoods were canvassed with fliers. Coalitions formed.

But months and many primaries later, activists fear the attention paid to illegal immigration reform has faded in Illinois and other non-border states, even in communities like Carpentersville – where more than 40 percent of 37,000 residents are Hispanic.

In response, Midwestern immigration activists are renewing a call for action in the months leading up to the election. They’re joining with academics from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin this weekend in Chicago to discuss how to again bring immigration reform to the forefront for the region’s voters.

“All political candidates are avoiding the issue. They talk about getting the vote of immigrants and Latinos, but they haven’t touched the problems of immigration reform,” said Jorge Mujica, who’s a leader of Chicago’s March 10 Coalition. “Something has to happen. We are still here.”

The free events to be held Saturday and Sunday in Chicago will cover topics including deportations and how to build more regional momentum for a third year of May 1 rallies to be held nationwide. Past marches brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in the name of immigrant rights.

“Immigration reform may have faded from the public view but certainly not from the day-to-day struggles of many people,” said Judith Boruchoff, a professor of anthropology at Roosevelt University, which is helping organize the weekend’s events.

The three leading candidates for president have somewhat similar views on illegal immigration reform.

Presumptive Republican candidate John McCain sponsored a 2006 bill that would have offered illegal immigrants legal status, on the condition they learned English, paid fines and back taxes, and passed a background check.

He supports a border fence and recently said securing borders is a chief concern. Both Democratic candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama voted for the 2006 bill and a border fence.

Experts following the immigration debate claim Republicans had hoped illegal immigration would become a wedge issue between the two parties in the 2008 presidential election.

Still, the issue of immigration reform has not resonated with voters as some hoped it would and debate on the issue has faded, particularly in non-border states.