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A “down payment” on the future

Monday, Dec 3, 2012

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Five years ago, most Illinois House Republicans, including House GOP Leader Tom Cross, of Oswego, voted against a bill which would’ve allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver’s licenses.

The conservative rhetoric against the legislation was very harsh. Even so, it was approved by the House but was never called for a floor vote in the state Senate.

Back then, the legislation was seen as political suicide by many Republicans fearful of a backlash within their own party. But since November’s election results showed a heavy Latino turnout which may have swayed several races in favor of the Democrats, Republicans have suddenly become far more interested. Leader Cross, for instance, called the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights the day after the election, offering to work with the group. The ICIRR now considers the drivers license bill will be a “down payment” on whether the parties want to make a “good faith effort” to work with it in the future. And Cross is supporting it.

The ICIRR used a not-for-profit group and a political action committee to play in several districts. It claims it hired 18 field coordinators, registered over 26,000 immigrants to vote, raised almost three quarters of a million dollars and fielded over 1,800 election day volunteers, many of them concentrated in the suburbs

One of the ICIRR’s top priorities this year was defeating state Sen. Carole Pankau (R-Itasca). Pankau has been demanding for years that the children of undocumented immigrants be removed from the state’s All Kids health insurance program. The ICIRR claims it contacted 3,600 immigrants in her district and had staff assigned to defeat her. She lost by less than 2,000 votes.

Another target was the 55th Illinois House District, a suburban Cook County district which has been in Republican hands forever. Voter registration, door-to-door canvassing, direct mail and phone calls helped Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines) defeat conservative Republican Susan Sweeney.

Yet another target was state Rep. Sandy Cole (R-Grayslake). The ICIRR contacted over 6,000 voters in her district, which has over 9,000 Latinos. Democrat Sam Yingling won by a little over 4,000 votes.

Not every race won by Democrats was due to the Latino vote. President Obama’s big win in his home state most certainly propelled several Democratic candidates to victory. The House and Senate Democrats also outspent the Republicans and generally outmaneuvered them. In some cases, the Democrats simply had better candidates than the Republicans did.

But the importance of that Latino vote cannot be underestimated because it was so large and so unexpected by just about everybody, except maybe the folks at ICIRR.

Latino turnout, as measured by a percentage of election day voters, jumped by 50 percent in the past four years, from 8 percent of turnout to 12 percent, according to exit polling data. The national climate most certainly inspired some of that turnout boost, with Latinos and other immigrants (including Asian-Americans) feeling besieged by the Republican Party.

But ICIRR believes the turnout numbers are sustainable over the long term, and points to explosive growth in the Latino population to buttress its case.

Just in Illinois, 70,000 Latinos are expected to turn 18 every year for the foreseeable future. “We are past the tipping point,” crowed one ICIRR official yesterday. According to the group, 350,000 legal permanent residents have become US citizens in Illinois in the past ten years. ICIRR has helped over 70,000 of them with the paperwork and filings.

The group has been working closely with Senate President John Cullerton on its drivers license bill and it has received assistance from some unlikely corners, including Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran, who has in the past been vilified by immigration activists for his hardline stance against illegal immigrants. Curran recently came out in favor of the drivers license bill because, he said, it’s a public safety matter that would mean training and insurance for drivers who don’t currently get either. Lake County is now over 20 percent Latino. Even hard-liners can read a Census report.

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno supported the bill last time around, and members of her caucus worked with the Senate Democrats last week to amend it. Sen. Bill Brady, a conservative Republican who ran for governor in 2010, now supports the bill. As I write this, the proposal appears to be heading for passage.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - just sayin' - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 9:18 am:

    Cheap pandering isn’t the answer for the GOP.

  2. - Skeeter - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 9:28 am:

    Sure, Just sayin.

    Instead, what you want to do is keep being the “no abortion ever” party and the “children from rape are God’s gift” party and the “let’s just get rid of all the Mexicans and then all of our problems will be solved” party.

    Stay the course! Don’t pander! Don’t reconsider! Don’t grow! Don’t evolve!

    Because, as you know, the current path is working so well.

  3. - BCross - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 9:29 am:

    One man’s “gifts” are another man’s recognition of reality . . . .

  4. - L Y O - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 9:33 am:

    @ just sayin’
    Cheap pandering is a far better plan than outright exclusion.

  5. - cassandra - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 9:39 am:

    As I understand it, it’s not even a regular drivers license, the kind that legal residents can get. And those who have it will, in a sense, have identified themselves to the government. For those who voice security concerns purportedly associated with illegal immigration,isn’t this a step in the right direction?

    Anyway, to use one example, the Mexican economy is now growing faster than the US economy, and the population is significantly younger. Maybe it won’t be long before the direction of border-hopping will be southwards from here, and US citizens will be asking for similar accommodations from the Mexican govt.

  6. - Demoralized - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 9:41 am:

    There is a legitimate public safety interest in doing this. These people are driving, so we might as well make sure they really know how to drive.

    It is utter nonsense to treat these people like average criminals. They are here. We must deal with it. Anybody that thinks a legitimate solution is to round all of them up and deport them is living in a fantasyland. Smart people have figured that out. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of ignorant people out there.

    We need to integrate these people into society more and get them out of the shadows. I’m not suggesting granting citizenship carte blanche, but there are smart ideas out there such as getting these people work visas and getting them to the back of the line to begin the citizenship process. That is the smart thing to do.

    But all of you hard nose anti-immigrants who still want to continue your nonsense, go ahead. You are dead wrong, though.

  7. - Demoralized - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 9:43 am:

    @just sayin’:

    Yes, because the GOP’s tactics and ideas are working so well. You just don’t get it, do you?

  8. - Judgment Day - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 9:50 am:

    Let’s throw out a different alternative (one which the Republicans probably didn’t consider) which is far more practical…

    We (the State of Illinois) can’t afford to continue to write laws in the way we have in the past.

    Much of our legislation comes out with ‘means testing’ or all sorts of fancy conditions (i.e.; “… children of undocumented immigrants be removed from the state’s All Kids health insurance program”).

    From a purely administrative standpoint, we might very well be money ahead if we just don’t worry if the kids (patients) are undocumented or not, because the costs to perform all the verification work not only overwhelms the system as currently exists, but also costs a substantial amount of time and money with the end goal being to “disqualify sick kids”.

    Think about it - just from a purely administrative/operating cost standpoint, does that approach really make sense to anybody?

    Not to mention the costs involved with recovery efforts of “funds improperly spent”.

    It’s almost as stupid as trying to give senior citizens free parking.

    And equally as stupid as trying to create a graduated income tax here in Illinois. We already have a great example of how well that process works with the federal income tax. If that system is held up as a success story, I’d hate to see what a failure is.

    We need to start looking at new legislation from an affordability standpoint. In other words, always ask two simple questions: “Can we make this work?”, and “What is it going to cost us to get there?”

  9. - reformer - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 9:54 am:

    The GOP growth on the immigration issue illustrates Everett Dirksen’s insight: “I can see the light when I feel the heat.”

  10. - Sideliner - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:11 am:

    The bill appears to be SB0957. If that is the case, there does not appear to be any differentiation between legal and illegal resident license types. It simply modifies who cannot have one.

    Link to text of SB0957:

    PS-Skeeter is not excessively rabid with the gratuitous off-topic insults?

  11. - On the real - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:11 am:

    I’m very interested in how the Black Caucus will vote. I’ve heard grumblings from a few that “illegal” Latinos are getting preferential treatment over their own “legal” constituents.

  12. - OneMan - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:13 am:

    just sayin’

    A a Republican I would rather folks have a license and a shot at insurance that is a big issue in my neck of the woods.

    Also to some extent all politics is a bit of cheap pandering…

  13. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:13 am:

    Sideliner, learn how to use the GA’s website. You linked to the bill as introduced. There are three amendments. Read them.

  14. - pat collins - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:16 am:

    Yes, pushing amnesty in 2007 so helped john McCain. And voting against it so hurt Obama.

  15. - walkinfool - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:16 am:

    “Cheap pandering” would be running a symbolic candidate with no policy changes. This bill is a smart, forward-looking policy change.

  16. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:23 am:

    –According to the group, 350,000 legal permanent residents have become US citizens in Illinois in the past ten years.–

    Reformer, there’s the heat that brings the light.

    There’s a couple of ways the Illinois GOP can go:

    They can proceed like the California GOP did in the 90s with it’s anti-immigrant rhetoric and stance in Prop. 187 (since tossed by the courts), and they can proceed into oblivion.

    Since 1994, no GOP candidate for gov., senate or president has carried California, except Arnold, and he ran to the center-left.

    Or, they can check out the Texas GOP model, which understands Hispanics, regardless of citizenship or resident status, are a huge and growing part of the state’s economy and culture — and they’re not going anywhere, so get on the train.

  17. - Old and In The Way - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:25 am:

    “And equally as stupid as trying to create a graduated income tax here in Illinois. We already have a great example of how well that process works with the federal income tax. If that system is held up as a success story, I’d hate to see what a failure is.”

    Huh? What planet do you live on? Look around you….there isn’t enough space in this blog to detail just how stupid, and unrelated, this comment is so I will save it for another time.

  18. - Anonimo - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:28 am:

    ICIRR has been a big player in state politics for some time. It’s interesting though that even in Illinois - where there is a history of supporting immigrants and we have folks like ICIRR, Luis Gutierrez, and others beating the pro-immigrant drum - we can’t get full, unrestricted, drivers licenses for all and instead go for permits with heavy restrictions.

  19. - Rich Miller - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:33 am:

    ===in 2007===

    Things change. Sometimes they change fast. Try to keep up.

  20. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:36 am:

    Gee, Pat, does Illinois have an “amnesty” bill in the works? Didn’t know a state could do that.

    If you want to bring national figures and issues in the mix, though, I’d suggest Reagan. He pushed amnesty and a path to citizenship because he considered it an issue of morality and good policy for all the United States.

  21. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:43 am:

    === ICIRR has been a big player in state politics for some time. ===

    === One of the ICIRR’s top priorities this year was defeating state Sen. Carole Pankau. ===

    Silly me. And here I thought the reason ICIRR receives so much taxpayer funding is because of their nonprofit work supporting immigrants. snark/off

  22. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 10:59 am:

    And the GOP promptly lost Hispanic votes immediately after Reagan signed the amnesty bill:

    “After Reagan signed an amnesty bill in 1986, the Republican share of the Hispanic vote fell in the next presidential election.”

    Latios are not single issue voters any more than most Americans are. Legislators are foolhardy if they presume one bill or one vote will suddenly earn them widespread Latino or minority support. It takes a sustained dialogue. And even then it may not pay dividends.

  23. - PublicServant - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 11:07 am:

    === [The Illinois GOP] can proceed into oblivion ===

    Ummm, I’m pretty sure this last election settled where the party of the rich and big business is headed. The party that’s against spending pretty much anything, and whose fallback position is that whatever spending they can’t get rid of should be paid for by the middle class, is at the very least, visting with oblivion on a regular basis.

    People are making a mistake if they think that this driving bill (or the immigration issue overall) will suddenly make the GOP whole with Latinos. They are continuing the nearsightedness that got them into their current position of irrelevancy. The vast majority of those Latinos are middle class, or strive for themselves and their children to get there. They’ve picked the party that best represents their economic interests in this election, and they will continue to do so in the future.

    As Carville says “It’s the economy stupid!”, and this last election proved which party the people (including Latinos) believe best represents their interests.

  24. - carbaby - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 11:15 am:

    I really hope this bill comes to fruition. It is kind of ridiculous that I can license undocumented people as foster parents as long as they have an ITIN(and of course be fingerprinted and background checked); they can purchase car insurance, own a car(yes both are true) but they can’t hold a valid driver’s license. These same individuals have a job and pay taxes- which is why they obtained the ITIN from the IRS to begin with. I have encountered many people in this situation, it really boggles my mind.

  25. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 11:20 am:

    –And the GOP promptly lost Hispanic votes immediately after Reagan signed the amnesty bill:–

    I hate to break it to you, cousin, but the GOP lost votes across the board after Reagan left. He was kind of popular.

    Reagan got 59% of the vote in 1984. Since then, the next highest percentage was Bush at 53% in 1988.

  26. - reformer - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 11:28 am:

    What has hurt the GOP is the harsh rhetoric with which so many have discussed immigration issues. White-hot, angry rhetoric reinforces the stereotype that the GOP is the white man’s party and doesn’t much care for nonwhites.

  27. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 12:11 pm:

    === the GOP lost votes across the board after Reagan left ===

    And yet the amnesty policy did nothing to offset their vote erosion among the single demographic it supposedly most impacted.

    While the GOP lost 6% of their general vote between the 1984 - 1988 elections, they lost 7% of their Latino vote. Go figure!

  28. - steve schnorf - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 1:47 pm:

    Cheap pandering. That would be a good name for a band, could be a slogan for a party, could be a candidate’s campaign theme. Cheap pandering. I like it.

  29. - friend of a friend - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 1:50 pm:

    I think the Republicans finally see that it’s time to “wake up and smell the Bustelo”!

  30. - Statesman - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 2:54 pm:

    Or, they can check out the Texas GOP model, which understands Hispanics, regardless of citizenship or resident status, are a huge and growing part of the state’s economy and culture — and they’re not going anywhere, so get on the train.

    Point on- there are Hispanic Republicans in Illinois that are light years ahead of TX and FL. State leaders and powerbrokers won’t listen.
    Now maybe they will.

  31. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 3:09 pm:

    “Cheap pandering isn’t the answer for the GOP”

    Why not, it works fine for the Dems.

  32. - Elder - Monday, Dec 3, 12 @ 5:12 pm:

    Ironic, isn’t it? The “pro-illegal” ICIRR has taken democracy more seriously than either party, helping tens of thousands of immigrants become citizens, registering them, turning them out to vote, and now creating a PAC to reward friends and punish enemies. And, after 10 years of work, they are an “overnight success”. Democracy is a beautiful thing!

  33. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 4, 12 @ 1:25 am:

    Pluto, brother, god bless you and good luck.

    I wouldn’t want to live in your world, nor would anyone else.

    Dude, I could gdt hit by a bus tomorrow, and when I get to heaven, I would feel remiss if I didn’t tell you:

    You are a misanthrope.

    What’s your problem, man? Can’t cut it as a white man in 2o12? Everyone out to get you?

    Some advice: As a sinner, I learned humility and take great comfort in The Gospels.

  34. - Sideliner - Tuesday, Dec 4, 12 @ 2:17 pm:

    ==Sideliner, learn how to use the GA’s website. You linked to the bill as introduced. There are three amendments. Read them.==

    D’oh! All right at the top. LOL

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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