Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk votes against immigration reform

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk votes against immigration reform
Sen. Mark Kirk

The U.S. Senate voted 82 to 15 Tuesday afternoon to begin debate on comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

But Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk was among the minority who voted no. In fact all of the opposing votes were Republicans.

Kirk is being short-sighted in a state where Hispanics are more than 16 percent of the population and around 14 percent of the population is foreign-born, according to U.S. Census data.

Immigrant rights advocates have held protests outside his office to try and win his support.

But Kirk has repeatedly said the U.S. must focus on border control before addressing immigration reform.

Kirk apparently fails to recognize that the number of border patrol agents has doubled since 2004 to more than 20,000.

And the bill as it stands has more than $6.5 billion for enforcement.

President Obama agrees that we need border security and his administration has worked on that.

The president spoke again Tuesday about the need for this legislation.

It will build on what we’ve done and continue to strengthen our borders. It will make sure that businesses and workers are all playing by the same set of rules, and it includes tough penalties for those who don’t. It’s fair for middle-class families, by making sure that those who are brought into the system pay their fair share in taxes and for services. And it’s fair for those who try to immigrate legally by stopping those who try to skip the line. It’s the right thing to do.

Also under President Obama, more than 1.4 million undocumented have been deported, more than under any modern president.

Why is this not enough enforcement for Sen. Kirk?

It's time to work on a solution that will create a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants already here in the U.S. who have contributed to the economy and their communities.

This first vote is a procedural one. Senators will continue to work on the bill drafted by a bipartisan group. More amendments may be added on.

Immigration legislation also is supported by a diverse coalition of business, labor and religious leaders.

Even former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar has asked Sen. Kirk to support immigration reform.

The fact that 82 senators voted to move forward is more progress than we have seen on immigration legislation in the U.S. Senate in more than a decade.

It's unfortunate that Sen. Kirk voted on the wrong side of history.


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