GOP looks for unity on immigration reform

April 22, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Illinois Republican leaders appeared before Illinois business leaders and immigration reform advocates Tuesday.

They tried to re-position the party on the issue that's helped cause big Republican losses in recent years.

"It's time that we address a problem that's been lingering for too long," said former governor Jim Edgar.

One by one, the state's top Republicans sang the virtues of immigration reform.

"Immigration reform is good for your family, for my family," said Sen. Christine Radogno.

And without specifics on the kind of reform he would support, the party's nominee for governor announced his support for the movement.

"I want to encourage and embrace immigration. Encourage freedom and opportunity for everyone," said Bruce Rauner.

An immigration reform bill passed by the Democratic-controlled United States Senate last year is bogged down in the Republican-controlled House. The sticking point for the most conservative GOP reps is granting amnesty to those immigrants in the country illegally.

"A lot of republicans, I'm not the only one feeling like this," said Rosanna Pulido, Minuteman Project.

Anti-reform demonstrators protested the Illinois Republican leadership's shifting position. Former congressman, now radio talk show host, Joe Walsh said Republicans caving to reform are afraid.

"The Republicans believe if they don't support amnesty they will never win the White House again," Walsh said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn's campaign released a video of Rauner last fall appearing to oppose immigration reform.

"And we make it a piece of cake to come here illegally. It's just wrong," Rauner says in the video.

A Quinn spokeswoman wrote of Republican nominee Tuesday, "This is just another case of Rauner pandering whatever audience he is in front of."

Finally, the Illinois Republican nominee for United States Senate, Jim Oberweiss, apologized to the Chicago Club audience for his anti-immigration rhetoric a decade ago.

"I regret the harsh tone of my rhetoric ten years ago, but my principals remain intact," Oberweiss said.

Oberweiss says he still opposes illegal immigration. He says those in the country illegally could be eligible for permits to stay here but should not be given preferential consideration for citizenship.

He was given polite applause after his short speech.

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