Gov. Rauner’s message leaves advocates perplexed

imagesCHICAGO: More than two months after taking the reins of one of the nation’s most immigrant-friendly states, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has offered mixed signals about his stance on immigration.

He’s publicly backed “comprehensive reform” and tells stories of his Swedish dairyman grandfather’s immigration, but rescinded executive orders aimed at making the state more welcoming to immigrants. He refused to join other GOP governors in a lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s immigration executive action, but proposed slashing roughly $8 million in services to help refugees and immigrants who want citizenship.

The contrasting views have left many immigration reform advocates in Illinois, including a leading Democratic congressman and a growing voting bloc, waiting for clarity.

“Like much of Gov. Rauner’s agenda, it’s a big question mark,” Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights executive director Lawrence Benito said.

Rauner says he’s “pro-immigration.” He told a group of Latino business leaders in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood that he’ll be pushing Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. He didn’t detail what he thinks that legislation should include, but said the U.S. should “help those folks who are here to become citizens.” He didn’t discuss his plans for the state.

And at an Illinois Business Immigration Coalition event earlier this month with Republicans, he talked about lessons gleaned from his grandparents’ struggles and his choice of Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, born in Florida to Cuban and Ecuadoran immigrants.

“I think we have it backward in America. I think we make legal immigration almost impossible and we make illegal immigration relatively easy. I think we’ve got to flip that around,” he told reporters the following day near Springfield. -AP

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