Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Why Pat Quinn and Bill Brady Won't Talk About Immigration

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    NEWSLETTERS

    According to a report on Fox News Chicago, Illinois has more illegal immigrants than Arizona. But that same report also reveals why Illinois will never pass an Arizona-style requiring furriners to show their papers: there are just too many groups of people to pick on.

    In Arizona, 90 percent of undocumented aliens are Mexicans. That’s a big, easy target, for politicians and cops. Here in Illinois, only 40 percent. A quarter are from Asia, and a quarter are from Europe.

    If Illinois passed a law targeting illegal immigrants, only black people would be safe from racial profiling.

    While Republicans around the country have rallied behind Arizona’s law, Bill Brady has, for once, allowed his political common sense to trump his conservative instincts. Brady has refused to take a position on the Arizona law, saying only that he has a study group advising him on immigration. He won’t even answer the question of whether it’s appropriate for police to question people about their immigration status.

    Gov. Pat Quinn has condemned the Arizona law. He calls it “un-American” and has even said he’s open to a legislative resolution asking the Cubs to stop holding spring training in Arizona.

    In Chicago, an anti-immigrant law would be seen as an attack on the ethnic mosaic that makes this city a wonderful place to live. In Illinois, immigration is not a racially polarizing issue, the way it is in Arizona, where “immigrant” is just another word for the despised caste of Latinos. In Chicago, when we think of immigrants, we think of Ziggy, the Polish handyman who fixes the drain. We think of Sun, who makes the best bi-bim-bop on Bryn Mawr Avenue. We think of the women behind the counter at the panaderia on 18th Street, or the cabdrivers who crowd into an Indian restaurant on Devon Avenue to watch the World Cup.

    An immigrant harassment law would anger way too many special interest groups, from the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund to the Polish National Alliance to the Chinese American Service League. No politician wants that much grief. Around the country, immigration will be a big issue in the 2010 election. But don’t expect to hear a word about it in Illinois.