NORMAL — Sonny Garcia left U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis' office frustrated Friday.
Garcia, a Bloomington resident and activist, told reporters he was disappointed in the Taylorville Republican during a meeting on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and Garcia plans to get out the vote in 2018 — presumably to unseat Davis, a target of national Democrats.
"We want him to be a champion. He did not agree to that. So, we were disappointed, but we are also optimistic that we will continue to have conversations," Garcia said.
"We want a pathway to citizenship for 800,000 of our most vulnerable residents of this country," he added. "He still needs to hear some more information about what is actually doable, but we still stand firm."
President Barack Obama created DACA to provide temporary work permits and protection from deportation for people brought into the U.S. illegally as youths, but President Trump announced Sept. 5 he intends to end it.
Garcia was one of about a dozen residents to meet with Davis on the topic at his office. The congressman said he'll remember their concerns when he returns to Washington, D.C., to work on DACA and a broader immigration reform bill.
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have asked Congress to support the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, Act to protect DACA enrollees from deportation. Republican senators have offered a competing Succeed Act.
"It's disappointing when one side or the other wants to talk about one piece of legislation. ... I'm not willing to commit to a hypothetical support of a bill that may or may not be the solution," Davis said of Garcia's complaints. "I think in the end what you'll see is a bill that fixes the DACA program, makes it standard and also addresses some border security issues."
Davis said Trump's announcement that DACA would end six months from that date "wasn't a good decision because now Congress has got to make a legal change."
He did not answer whether he would support building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a Trump priority, as part of a reform bill.
Protests sprang up across the Twin Cities after Trump's announcement. Bloomington's District 87 school board adopted a resolution the next week pledging its support for students regardless of immigration status.
Garcia said hundreds in Bloomington-Normal are protected by the program, which has about 800,000 enrollees nationwide. He said it's unfair to punish those residents for offering personal information to the federal government.
"The ultimate goal is to get immigration reform for everybody, for all 11 million (immigrants who entered the United States illegally)," said Garcia.
Four Democrats have announced runs to oppose Davis in 2018: David Gill, a Bloomington physician; Jon Ebel, a University of Illinois religion professor; Erik Jones, an Edwardsville attorney; and Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, a Springfield woman and former fundraiser for Durbin.