President Barack Obama's recent immigration executive actions could greatly benefit Illinois' economy, according to new data. Meanwhile, the battle in Congress over Department of Homeland Security funding rages on as a new poll shows that most Illinoisans oppose GOP efforts, supported by U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, to thwart the president's steps on immigration.
President Barack Obama's recent executive actions on immigration could mean a $3.8 billion to $9 billion boost to Illinois' gross domestic product over the next decade, according to the White House.
That growth translates into increased revenue for the state's budget, Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, told reporters on a Tuesday conference call focusing on the possible economic effects of Obama's new immigration policy in Illinois.
The numbers provided by Munoz are based on a recent report by Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, which examines the potential U.S. economic benefits of the administration's immigration executive orders. The orders were signed by the president back in November.
According to the CEA's analysis, the U.S. economy is estimated to grow by between $90 billion and $210 billion over the next decade thanks to the president's immigration plan, under which as many as five million undocumented immigrants could see temporary relief from deportation.
Specifically, qualified undocumented parents of children with U.S. legal status who have resided in the country since January 1, 2010 will be shielded from deportation for three years as part of the executive orders. Among other reforms, Obama's administrative relief extends deferred action to additional undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, but were too old to qualify for the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
To obtain deferred action and work permits as part of the president's plan, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for five years must pass a criminal background test and pay a fee. The application process for the expanded DACA program opens later this month. Those interested in applying for the deferred action for parents program can submit applications to the federal government starting in May.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) joined Tuesday's White House conference call, which was held as a battle rages in Congress over the immigration orders and a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding measure.
Last month, the GOP-led House passed a DHS funding bill that would block Obama's executive actions on immigration and end the DACA program. Since then, Republicans in the Senate have tried to take up a similar DHS funding measure with immigration riders, but their efforts have been quashed multiple times by Democrats.
If Congress does not pass a bill to fund DHS by February 27 -- when the department's current funding runs out -- some 30,000 workers, including many from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, would have to be furloughed, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told CNN on Sunday.
As the DHS funding fight continues in Congress, Durbin told reporters on Tuesday's call that he has been on the Senate floor sharing the stories of those who would be negatively impacted by Republican proposals to "kill" the DACA program and Obama's executive actions.
"I won't go into the whole question about why they're using the appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security to wage this battle, but I will tell you that it's fundamentally wrong," Durbin stressed. "We are a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have built this country, and we could use the talents, the skills of these young people coming out of college and medical school to make this a better country and to make Illinois a stronger state."
Specifically, Durbin has been highlighting the stories of seven DACA recipients enrolled at Loyola University Chicago's Stritch School of Medicine.
"Their only condition of their going to medical school is they have to promise that for each year of medical school they will spend one year of their professional lives serving either in an inner city area or a ... rural state area that needs a doctor," Durbin told reporters. "They're willing to do it -- give up years of their lives in service of the state of Illinois. What we see from the Republicans is the effort to deport these medical students. These are DACA-protected medical students, and they want to eliminate any opportunity for them to renew their protected status and finish medical school.
"They're not thinking clearly, but the American people are," Durbin continued. "We want to have an immigration policy that is sensible, and the president has spelled out through executive order what the Republicans in the House of Representatives were refusing to do on their own. They can still call an immigration bill any day. I doubt that they will, but in the meantime, the president has done the right thing -- protecting tomorrow's DREAMers and providing an opportunity for their parents to stay and work here in the state of Illinois and in the United States."
Durbin was referring to the fact that Republican House leaders have refused to take up a bipartisan immigration reform package that cleared the Senate in June of 2013.
Gutierrez, who has spearheaded a cross-country tour educating the immigrant community about Obama's executive actions, said it is time for Republicans to stop pushing "these ugly, anti-immigrant" proposals and get serious about enacting a bipartisan overhaul of the nation's immigration system.
"You made your point," Gutierrez said of the Republicans. "Let's move forward now in helping our immigrant community and settling this issue."
Poll: Kirk's Opposition To Obama's Immigration Actions Could Hurt Him
Meanwhile, a new Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey shows that Illinoisans overwhelmingly support Obama's immigration executive orders and oppose Republican efforts to derail them through a DHS funding bill. As a result, U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL), who is up for re-election next year, may see some backlash due to his votes in favor of proceeding with DHS funding legislation that would undo Obama's executive orders, according to the poll.
In the poll of 523 registered Illinois voters, 62 percent supported Obama's new immigration policy, while 30 percent opposed the plan. Of those polled, 51 percent expressed disproval over Republican efforts to roll back Obama's immigration reforms via a DHS funding bill, a tactic garnering support from just 38 percent of survey respondents.
In addition to Illinois, the poll explored voter attitudes on the same issues in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. These four states all have "vulnerable" Republican incumbent Senators up for re-election in 2016, including Kirk as well as U.S. Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA).
"All four of these Senators have approval numbers that make them pretty vulnerable for re-election next year," PPP Director Tom Jensen said on a separate conference call Tuesday announcing the survey results. "What we find about all four of them is that their approval ratings (are) in the 30s ... About [a] third of voters approve of them, about a third of voters disapprove of them and about a third of voters don't have an opinion about them one way or the other.
"And what that means is because they're undefined to a lot of voters at this point, they're really going to be defined by how they act over the next two years," he added. "And what we're finding is that on this immigration and homeland security issue, voters are not very happy with them."
Jensen noted that the majority of Independent voters polled in each of the four states backed Obama's immigration orders.
"These are all states that voted Democratic for president in both 2008 and 2012, so they're states, where for these Republican senators to get re-elected next year, they're really going to have to do well with Independent voters," he said. "And what we're finding is that a majority of Independent voters in each of these states support the new immigration policy, so it really puts these Republican senators at odds with one of the key groups they're going to need to have behind them in order to get re-elected next year."
By a 22 point margin, Illinoisans who were polled reported to be less likely to support Kirk in the next election as a result of the senator "voting to overturn the new immigration policy." Of those polled, 47 percent said Kirk's opposition to Obama's immigration orders makes them less likely to support the senator in the future, while 25 percent think they would be more likely to support him. Twenty-five percent of respondents said Kirk's position on the matter makes no difference on whether they would support him in 2016, while 3 percent said they were not sure.
When asked, "Does refusing to fund the Department of Homeland Security unless the immigration policy change is blocked make you more or less likely to vote for Mark Kirk next year, or does it not make a difference," 47 percent of poll respondents said "less likely," 30 percent said "more likely," 20 percent said it "doesn't make a difference," while 5 percent were undecided.
Kirk's general approval and disapproval ratings are both at 34 percent, according to the survey, which was conducted on behalf of SEIU* and the Alliance for Citizenship. Thirty-three percent of respondents were not sure whether they approve or disapprove of Kirk's job performance.
"We are very disappointed that Sen. Kirk has in effect voted to deny immigration relief to hundreds of thousands of Illinois immigrants," Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said in a statement. "Rather than standing with Illinois voters and immigrant families, he has chosen to play politics with DHS funding and immigrant lives. We hope these polling results will show him that he needs to change course."
The Illinois-based poll, conducted February 5 through February 6, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent.
The release of the polling results coincided with SEIU's launch of a digital ad campaign taking aim at each of the four Republican senators to let them know that "homeland security is no place for games" and that they need to "put people over politics," said Rocio Saenz, SEIU's international executive vice president.
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.