Monday, September 19, 2005

Immigration Looms As Big Issue in GOP Governor’s Contest

The smashing victory of State Sen. Bill Brady as the Conservative Summit endorsee has led some supporters of Jim Oberweis who placed second to play the I-Card issue against the young Bloomington legislator.

Jim Leahy, grassroots coordinator for Oberweis and executive director of the Republican Assembly of Illinois spoke out with great passion on my WLS radio show last night and has been calling other radio talk shows to point out that Brady was a co-sponsor (for three days until he took his name off) of SB-1623 the Matricula Consular legislation which was signed into law by Gov. Blagojevich. That legislation, sponsored by a number of Democrats including Senate President Emil Jones, allows Hispanic aliens to use the card as a valid identification to get loans and obtain other benefits . Leahy seemed to indicate that Brady had second thoughts about co-sponsorship of the bill but nevertheless voted for it.

Thus does immigration—the I Card issue—become the first skirmishing issue between Oberweis, a staunch foe of illegal immigration, and Brady who generally is seen to reflect a more moderate view of the issue. Oberweis has long trumpeted a get-tough stand on illegal immigration and has been getting enthusiastic support on the issue from grassroots conservatives. A random check of calls on most conservative-oriented local talk shows seems to validate the Oberweis campaign assessment that it is a strong issue indeed for any candidate who applies it. Oberweis himself is quick to say that his use of the issue in a television commercial two years ago when he ran for the U. S. Senate was unfortunate, magnifying the issue to a point where it appears to be a racist-tinged assault on all immigration which is not what Oberweis had in mind. Oberweis was in support of a so-called CLEAR bill which would restrict illegal immigration. The commercial, which featured a helicopter flying over Soldier Field seemed to portray the view that the state was being inundated with illegals.

The Brady-Oberweis battle seems to take center stage and leaves other Republican candidates seemingly in the dust. The issue presents a somewhat ticklish question for Brady and Oberweis, two Roman Catholics. While church social policy is by no means as dogmatic on illegal immigration as it is on abortion, there is no question that most U.S. Catholic bishops are somewhat malleable on immigration, for many reasons having to do with traditional views toward open immigration. The fact that most Hispanics are Roman Catholic has not been overlooked by most bishops.


  1. Tom, I have been a fan for over 20 years, since your days with Bruce DuMont on WBEZ Inside Politics radio show, I read you every Saturday....your the best

  2. Tom, I was wondering just who thinks that immigration is a real issue in the '06 campaign. The only time I hear about it is when Jim Oberweis opens his mouth. This issue wil take the Illinois Republicans nowhere and will only alienate potential ethnic, conservative-leaning voters. Bill Brady is best advised to allow Jim Oberweis to self-destruct on this issue and concentrate on other issues that people are actually talking about.

  3. Michael
    The issue is Illegal immigration not Immigration!!!!!!!
    The reason this is an issue is that it is the reason some at the conference used to disqualify Jim Oberweis for the Governors race. If the other side can bring it up as a negative why not us taking the flip side?
    I do not know how involved in the conservative movement you are but to say it is not an issue shows you spend little time at events or listening to talk radio.
    Go to world net daily most days and Illegal immigration covers 1/2 the stories on the first page. I travel across the state for my job and believe me this is an issue that will not go away.

    Jim Leahy

  4. Bishop James Alan WilkowskiSeptember 23, 2005 at 5:36 AM

    Dear Mr. Roeser,

    Thank you for your article. I believe that this topic must be addressed in the upcoming election for Governor.

    As I learn more about the broader picture of immigration, the more I have become worried.

    You might wish to read a recent article I published a few weeks ago related to this topic:

    Once again, thank you for bringing this topic to the table.

    Sincerely Yours,

    +Bishop James Alan Wilkowski
    Evangelical Catholic Bishop for the Diocese of the Northwest
    Chicago, Illinois

  5. Jim,

    I know full well what the issue is and it will get the Republicans nowhere. Oberweis and his surrogates made this an issue in the Senate campaign and that's why it gets discussed today. Illegal immigration is viewed as a federal issue by the voting electorate and, I dare say, it views this discussion by certain state conservatives as peculiar, especially in light of more pressing state issues.

    Jim, you need to realize that the Democrats will use this "illegal" immigration issue against any Republican nominee that extols it. This senseless issue, on the part of a state campaign, will ensure minimal ethnic support for Republican candidates. It will create a hard to reverse public viewpoint that the conservative wing of the Illinois Republican party is a whites only crowd.

    I also travel extensively in conservative circles and I never, ever, hear this discussed as a state campaign issue among acquaintances.

    Buenos noches amigo!