Driver's licenses for undocumented immigrant residents, a proposed deportation center for illegal immigrants and the need for warehouse jobs that pay a living wage were the hot-button issues discussed at a candidate's forum Monday night.
The event, specifically designed to cover topics of interest to the Will County Latino community, was held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Joliet. Among the candidates to attend were those running for the Will County state's attorney's office, the U.S. House seat for District 11 and the Illinois House District 86 seat.
Both Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow and his opponent Dave Carlson told attendees the Hispanic community is important to them.
"I'm doing everything that I can to make sure my office is accessible to your community and responsive to your needs," including making sure that he has staff members who are bilingual, Glasgow said.
On the topic of treating workers fairly, Glasgow said he understood that situation because he worked his way through college in a warehouse and ended up injuring his back. It's why he's fought for fair wages in the past, he said.
His opponent, Republican Dave Carlson, said he also sympathizes with warehouse workers struggling to make a living wage and wants to see them treated fairly.
"I worked for UPS," he said. "I was a Teamster and I was very lucky to have that protection."
He said his approach in this election is to protect his constituents.
"It's about the defense of people, not the prosecution of people and that's what I am here for," he said.
Illinois Sen. Pat McGuire, who is running for re-election in the 43rd District, said his past role as a member of the Joliet Township High School District 204 board made him passionate about the question of how to keep kids in school.
"Students have to feel welcome in their schools," he said, and schools need to have skilled teachers and curriculum that meets the jobs of today and tomorrow.
"We've got to prepare kids for high-tech jobs," he said.
McGuire's opponent Sandy Johnson did not attend the forum.
Perhaps the most outspoken candidate on the drivers license issue was state Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., who's seeking election to the District 86 House seat to which he was appointed in May.
There was loud applause after Walsh told attendees that he would not only like to see driver's licenses available for undocumented workers, but have them be the first step toward a more important goal.
"The other thing I would like to see with that is a path to citizenship," he said. "I don't have a problem supporting that, but I'd like to add that on."
His opponent, Republican Ryan M. Alm, was not at the forum.
Both candidates for Illinois' 11th Congressional District were represented Monday. Bill Foster attended himself and Judy Biggert was represented by Brian Colgan, a volunteer in the campaign. Foster was welcomed to the stage with a rousing round of applause. He spoke how members of congress vote with a card that has a microchip in it. He explained that he and opponent Congresswoman Judy Biggert would vote side by side while he was a congressman in the 14th District before redistricting.
He said the two were often on different sides of the issue, which included his vote for the Dream Act. He would support future legislation like the dream act, but warned attendees that it would not be a given.
"There are many, many important details that will have to be negotiated," he said. "I won't always be on your side."
Brian Colgan was in attendance for Congresswoman Biggert.
"You can absolutely count on Ms. Biggert to protect the immigrant communities," he said. "She's someone who wants to bring both parties together."
Finally, although Garrett Peck, who is running for state senate in the 49th District was unable to attend, he did send a representative. Peck is running against Regional Superintendent of Schools Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, who did not attend the forum. Through his representative, Peck said he would counter the high drop-out rate by encouraging the building of more charter schools.
"He wants to work to remove the cap because he doesn't believe there should be a cap on quality education," the representative said.