A group of business owners from the Northwest suburbs has called on Sen. Dick Durbin to lead Congress in reforming the country's immigration system, which they said could be the "recipe" needed to stimulate the country's struggling economy.
About half dozen business people spoke during a news conference Thursday at the La Quebrada Banquet Hall in Elgin, sponsored by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
"We thank Sen. Durbin for being a supporter of immigration reform, but we want him to be a leader," said Jose Figueroa of Vista Insurance Agency in Rolling Meadows.
The panelists said immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants would add thousands of dollars to the nation's economy everyday.
Ricardo Vega, owner of Three Amigos Grocery in Wauconda, said studies estimate almost 60 percent of immigrants send money to Mexico on a monthly basis because they fear deportation from the United States.
"They don't have a secure future here," Vega said. "They send money to have something established in Mexico."
And by doing so they are hurting the American economy, panelists said.
A joint study by the Center for American Progress and the Immigration Policy Center published in January states that comprehensive immigration reform would increase the country's gross domestic product by at least $1.5 trillion over 10 years.
"This is for the good of all - not only for the undocumented aliens but it is for the corporations, American citizens and permanent residents," said Rosa MacNeil, an Arlington Heights attorney. "This is not an amnesty. It is merely trying to establish legality of a status of a person who is already contributing to our economy ... by purchasing homes, cars consumer goods ... and also giving jobs to other people because they are creating jobs."
The business owners said reform should not be a "blank check" toward citizenship.
"There will be steps that would need to be followed, Figueroa said. "If people don't meet the standards then they should not get (citizenship) ... Penalties will be applied. That's money going to the economy; government and Main Street."