WEST CHICAGO – A group of faith leaders and immigration reform advocates were locked out of the West Chicago office of U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, and eventually removed by police on Friday when they arrived to stage a sit-in to ask that Roskam meet with local undocumented families and take a lead on immigration reform.
"We want to make sure he understands that families in his district will be impacted by immigration reform and he hears their stories," said Erendira Rendon, who is with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and has been to Roskam's office about 20 times.
Members of the coalition have visited the office, located at 2700 International Drive, Suite 304, in West Chicago, on several occasions since July to schedule a meeting with the congressman, but one has yet to occur, Rendon said.
However, in a statement to Suburban Life Media, Roskam's office said he has met more than 60 times with groups of constituents, immigration reform advocates and small business representatives to discuss their ideas for reform.
“Congressman Roskam is interested in having an open, constructive dialogue about remedying our broken immigration system ... ," spokesperson Stephanie Genco Kittredge said in the statement. "He strongly supports taking common-sense steps to advance solutions to our broken system."
Past visits by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and their allies to the West Chicago office have been met with locked doors as well, but not all, Rendon said.
About 10 people, including members of the coalition and local clergy, arrived at the office at about 11 a.m. Friday. Although the doors were locked, workers could be seen inside, so the group decided to assemble in the exterior hallway, she said.
West Chicago police officers escorted the group from the premises at about 2 p.m., telling them it was "time to go," said Monica Trevino, communications director for the coalition.
Trevino said their group was in an area where they were given permission to assemble by building security, and they were not being rowdy.
The Rev. Michael Mann, associate director of mission and advocacy for the United Methodist Church's Northern Illinois Conference, participated in the sit-in to represent the many churches who attended the annual event and passed legislation supporting reform that includes a path to citizenship and a focus on keeping families together.
"Immigration reform is about families, and it's about those families who are currently hurt by our broken immigration system," Mann said.
In a column for Suburban Life Media, Roskam shared his views on immigration, focusing on securing the border as a necessary first step.
Another priority he cited in the column is addressing foreign travelers who overstay their visas.
After action is taken in each of those areas, Roskam said in the column that the government could consider other smaller pieces of legislation, including measures that would issue high-skilled visas, offer seasonal permits for agricultural workers through a guest worker program and set up a process for undocumented immigrants to "get right with the law."
"By working through small bills that fix targeted problems, we will ultimately solve the bigger problem in a way that is transparent and easy to understand," he said.
However, Rendon said it's important to know what Roskam means by "getting right with the law" and what that process would involve. She wants him to be aware that people in his district are supportive of immigration reform, she said.
Although the coalition has not yet been able to meet with Roskam, they plan to continue to try.
"We're not going to stop until he meets with us," Trevino said.