Northern Illinois University President Doug Baker and Irakere Picon, an NIU law student, joined Rockford-area leaders in a discussion about immigration reform at Belvidere’s Community Building Wednesday morning. The event, entitled “Moving Us Forward: Illinois Voices for Immigration Reform,” was organized by the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition and state Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R-Rockford) and centered on the economic, business and education needs of common-sense immigration reform.
The solutions-oriented panel also included Illinois Specialty Growers Association chairman Harry Alten and Ben Taylor, director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — Great Lakes Region.
Picon indicated he wanted to see fair opportunities in the immigration system.
“There is no line for individuals like myself to get into and become permanent residents. All we are asking for is that opportunity to get in line,” he said.
“The undocumented Americans attending institutions of higher education across the nation are not part of the problem; instead, they are part of the solution to reforming our immigration policies and advancing our society, both economically and morally,” President Baker said afterwards. “Hard work and entrepreneurial spirit should provide everyone with the opportunity to pursue the American dream, as all of our immigrant ancestors have done.”
Taylor said it is crucial to educate a highly-skilled, intellectual, creative, problem-solving workforce, noting the importance of embracing immigrants in our communities.
The group concluded that enacting immigration reform will help the nation become more competitive by allowing undocumented immigrants to learn from each other in the classroom and then take those skills to the workforce, helping to grow business in addition to the tax base.
“I am especially glad to have the opportunity to help facilitate these discussions between leaders in the community and look forward to continuing the conversation for comprehensive immigration reform,” Sosnowski said, noting the immigration reform issue has a critical impact on the lives of many Illinois residents and members of his district.