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Lake County sheriff goes against the grain
Fellow Republicans skeptical of ideas for immigration reform, but opponent likes them
By Tony Gordon | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/12/2010 12:01 AM

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Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran endorsed national immigration reform Thursday night before an audience of his fellow Republicans who seemed largely opposed to the idea.

Curran's idea of combining a pathway to citizenship program with increased control of the borders did get a thumbs up from his Democratic opponent in the fall election.

Curran in the past has said he was opposed to any effort to allow the estimated 15 million to 20 million people who entered the country illegally to become citizens said his change of mind on the issue was driven mainly by his Catholic faith.

He said his review of the position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on immigration reform convinced him that he had to soften his own view to reflect the teachings of his church.

"When faith conflicts with politics, faith wins every time with me," Curran said. "These are human beings we are talking about here, and God loves all human beings."

Speaking to a meeting of the conservative Republican Assembly of Lake County in Mundelein, Curran told the approximately 60-person group he believed he had to take a stand on the issue because most politicians will not.

He said Republicans can take the lead on the issue by projecting the image of "the party of family values," to attract what he said are the strong family values held by the majority of immigrants.

"We cannot sit in limbo and get nothing done," Curran said. "We can either adopt our own policy or have one shoved down our throats by liberal Democrats.' Any reform must come with strict requirements, Curran said, among them requiring people to speak English, pay fines and taxes and pass a test to become citizens.

It is equally important, Curran said, that the country at the same time do more to secure the borders by building walls and increasing police and military presence.

"It is important for our national security that we find out who is here," Curran said. "It is also important that we develop a comprehensive solution to border security so that we do not have to go through this in another 20 years."

Contacted after Curran's speech to the group, Democratic candidate for sheriff Douglas Roberts applauded his opponent's ideas.

"I think his is a very responsible position, and I congratulate him for taking it," Roberts said. "It is not, however, a position I believe his base will take."

Judging from the questions posed to Curran by his audience in a basement meeting room at the Comfort Inn, Roberts is correct.

Members of the assembly peppered Curran to continue his support for the deportation of illegal immigrants convicted of crimes and he said he would.

Others criticized the pathway to citizenship as a reward for lawbreakers and said they feared immigrants would squeeze native-born Americans out of the economy.

Curran said he was aware that his position on immigration reform would not be popular with all Republicans, but said he believed it was the only practical view.

"We will never be able to deport 20 million people, so forget about it," he said. "It is never going to happen."

Reform: 'We will never be able to deport 20 million people'