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Congressional, local reaction to immigration reform mixed

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BLOOMINGTON — Politicians' reaction to President Barack Obama's use of executive authority to change U.S. immigration policy broke down along expected partisan lines Thursday night, but local civil rights and business groups would like to hear more details.

Illinois' Republican congressmen issued a joint statement calling the move "lawless" and ultimately harmful while U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Springfield, said the move would make America safer and blamed House Republicans for blocking reform legislation.

Bloomington-based Illinois People's Action is "on board" with the principle of granting work permits to as many as 5 million immigrants who entered the United States illegally and extending deadlines for deportation — but “the devil is in the details,” said Jenn Carrillo, the staffer behind IPA's immigration campaign.

“We’re cautiously optimistic... (but) we don’t know with certainty about what’s in the plan,” she said. “The administration is not notorious for sticking to their own guidelines.”

Carrillo said IPA — which has sparred with local law enforcement over the agencies' cooperation with customs enforcement officials — is "disappointed" the proposal is not as wide-ranging as possible legislative action, but it will celebrate any kind of progress.

“We’ll fight for everybody who got left out of this and for a more permanent solution,” she said.

Ken Springer, vice president of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, said the organization does not take a stance on immigration but added the changes could strengthen the local workforce.

“If this action is going to lead to an increase in skilled workers in the community, that’s a good thing for incumbent employers,” he said.

The Republican House members from Illinois said Congress should take the lead on immigration reform, including border security and the visa system.

"By blatantly bypassing Congress to execute this illegal executive order, the president is neglecting the interest of the American people, diminishing our national security, undermining the rule of law, and setting back efforts to permanently and meaningfully fix what's broken in the immigration system," the statement said.

On the other hand, Durbin said Obama's action will bring "millions of immigrants out of the shadows to register with the government and undergo rigorous law enforcement and national security background checks." He said they also will pay taxes and "eliminate the unfair competition of the underground economy."

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