CHICAGO | Mayors of some of Illinois' biggest municipalities called on the state's congressional delegation Wednesday to overhaul immigration laws as a way to repair and boost the economy.
The 21 leaders — mostly Democratic-leaning mayors and presidents around Chicago and central Illinois — signed a letter which says new laws focusing on all immigrants, regardless of citizenship status, will create jobs and raise revenues. There are an estimated 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
"Illinois is facing tough economic times," the letter says. "We cannot hope to achieve the growth necessary to repair the damage done by the recession without bringing eleven million people out of the shadows and fully integrated into our economy. "
The effort was led by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and FWD.us, an advocacy organization started by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Emanuel has vowed to make Chicago the most immigrant friendly city in the world. The state already has some of the nation's most immigrant-friendly laws and a few of its top leaders are involved in reform, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
Still, Illinois has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and is facing other financial issues that could be helped by reform, according to the letter. The mayors said the timing is right in the wake of the end of the partial federal government shutdown.
The mayors aren't pushing for a particular bill. Legislation with amped up border security has passed the Senate but it is unclear if any overhaul will come for a vote in the GOP-led House.
"Our country was careening towards default and leaders from both parties, in both chambers, came together to do the right thing," the letter said. "Let's take this opportunity to form another coalition to come together, heal our economy, and grant those — who followed in the footsteps of many of our own immigrant parents — a legal path to remain here and provide a better life for their children.
The leaders are from: Peoria, Fairmont City, Hanover Park, Cicero, Champaign, Joliet, Elgin, Normal, Orland Park, Hoffman Estates, Franklin Park, Urbana, Bloomington, Highland Park, Elmwood Park, Melrose Park, Evanston, McCook, Lincolnwood and Aurora.