Immigration reform was the focus of a public forum in northern Illinois this week. The discussion, which was held in Belvidere, included a wide range of speakers.
Among them was Irakere Picon. The undocumented immigrant is a law student at NIU. He worries that despite all his education, his status will get in the way of obtaining a license to practice law. Picon suggests that more states do what California has done: change their laws to address this issue.
"I want to give back to my community. I want to contribute to the economy as an attorney," Picon said.
Picon says Illinois needs to continue to serve as a leader in recognizing what these immigrants can bring to the table. He pointed to the recently approved law in Illinois that allows undocumented residents to apply for temporary driver's licenses.
State Representative Joe Sosnowski, who voted against that law, agrees that comprehensive reform is needed. He says the issue has a critical impact on the lives of many Illinois residents and members of his district. But the Repulican says the focus should be on the federal level, and not a patchwork of state laws.
"It's like people are throwing a bunch arrows at a target, but nothing is getting accomplished," Sosnowski said.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate did approve a sweeping immigration bill. But the measure has yet to gain any traction in the House.
The panel from this week's discussion also included NIU President Doug Baker, Illinois Specialty Growers Association chairman Harry Alten and Ben Taylor, director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.