United States

Rauner’s ‘Immigrant’ Grandparents Were Actually Born in Wisconsin, BGA Finds

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks regularly of his immigrant grandparents, however, the Better Government Association discovered Tuesday that Rauner's family history may not have occurred the way he often makes it seem.

Just last week, Rauner fondly recalled his grandparents while signing the new Illinois TRUST Act, a pro-immigration bill.

"My grandparents were proud immigrants to the United States of America, here to Illinois in the late 1800s," Rauner said ahead of the signing. "My grandparents did not speak English when they were young."

Political watchdog organization the Better Government Association took a look at census records and found that they actually weren't immigrants at all.

"He kept on talking about his immigrant grandfather, immigrant from Sweden who could barely speak English, sometimes he would say he didn't speak English. He also said his grandmother was like that," said the BGA's Bob Secter, who authored the piece in partnership with Politfact. "So we went back and looked at the census records to find out about it and they just aren't immigrants. They were born in Wisconsin."

In a YouTube compilation on the topic, there was only one time (of several instances in which he discussed his immigrant relatives) that Rauner, when asked by a reporter, clarified that he was speaking about his great-grandparents.

"My great-grand parents came to this country, it was my great-grand parents," Rauner said. "My grandparents grew up with them in Wisconsin.They were born to immigrants."

Census records obtained by the BGA show that Rauner's grandparents - Clarence and Viola Erickson - were born in Wisconsin.

"The way the governor tells it, it makes it sound like they were you know, fresh-off-the-boat immigrants who could barely speak English or hardly speak English and had to learn it," Secter said. "And that's just not true."

When asked for a response, a spokeswoman for Rauner said the relatives the governor often cites are actually his mom's grandparents.

But the BGA found that his great-grandmother - Viola's mother - was actually also born in Wisconsin.

"Viola’s father, while born in Sweden, emigrated to the U.S. at age 6 in 1868," the BGA reported.

Rauner's office did not immediately respond to further requests for comment.

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