Rauner echoes Trump, lambastes immigrants

Governor runs right in debate against Pritzker at Chicago Sun-Times, blames illegal immigrants for crime

 Gov. Rauner speaks at a Republican rally on Governor’s Day at the State Fair, where he said, “We are not a sanctuary state and we’ll never be one.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Gov. Rauner speaks at a Republican rally on Governor’s Day at the State Fair, where he said, “We are not a sanctuary state and we’ll never be one.” (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

Gov. Bruce Rauner borrowed a page from President Trump’s playbook Tuesday, blaming illegal immigrants for Chicago’s gun violence in a debate against Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker.

While Rauner cast it within larger economic issues, he put the blame for Chicago’s crime rate on illegal immigrants and wouldn’t back down.

“Illegal immigration takes jobs away from Americans. It holds down wages, hurts union workers, farmworkers, factory workers, hurts wages, and raises unemployment,” Rauner said.

“One of the reasons we have such high unemployment in the city of Chicago and so much crime is the massive number of illegal immigrants here take jobs away from American citizens and Chicago citizens,” he added.

Asked by an incredulous reporter on the Sun-Times debate panel to clarify, Rauner said, “I’m saying that the reason unemployment is higher and wages are lower is because we have so much illegal immigration.”

Although the debate took place at the Sun-Times, Rauner’s remarks were first reported by political reporter Rick Pearson in the Tribune and by Rich Miller in his Capitol Fax online news site.

Trump has made repeated attacks on Chicago as a “sanctuary city” protecting undocumented immigrants and has linked that to the city’s gun violence. In an August appearance in West Virginia, he said, “If you want to stop this craziness of sanctuary cities, where criminals are protected take a look at Chicago. How about the mayor of Chicago? It's like a war zone. It's a great city. It's like a war zone. This is what those policies do.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel immediately lashed back, saying, “We’ll always be a welcoming city” for immigrants, and then advising Trump to pay more attention to his legal team in the Mueller investigation into alleged collusion with Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Immigration groups charged Rauner with flip-flopping on the issue this summer when he vetoed a series of immigration bills that had cleared the General Assembly. Rauner signaled his new hardline approach on Governor’s Day at the State Fair this summer, when he said, “I am adamantly against illegal immigration. We are not a sanctuary state and we’ll never be one.”

In Tuesday’s debate, Pritzker defended immigrants, saying, “They are good for the economy of the state of Illinois.” According to Capitol Fax, a Pritzker spokesman later charged Rauner with “demonizing entire communities with a vicious attack that may as well have come directly from Donald Trump’s mouth.”

Rauner’s attacks linking illegal immigration to Chicago crime, however, come at a time when murders, robberies, aggravated batteries, burglaries, thefts, and auto thefts are all down from levels a year ago. Through Sunday, among all crime complaints reported by the Chicago Police Department, only criminal sexual assaults were up from 2017.