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Congressman Danny K. Davis responded to public concerns regarding the employment of illegal immigrants, border control and other immigration related contentions from attendants of the Seventh District Town Hall meeting in Maywood last Thursday.

The predominant concern the majority of the meetings attendants shared on Thursday night regarded the current illegal immigration issue in the United States. The attendants addressed the congressman with the argument that illegal immigrants are being employed in the United States and consequently harming the existing unemployment problem in the country, particularly for African Americans.

According to the United States Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for African Americans was 8.4 percent in May 2006, the highest unemployment rate for an ethnicity.

“It’s one thing when you have a natural evolution of a population in an environment growing naturally. It’s another thing when you’re injecting a large number of people into that environment,” said Maywood resident, Edward Brownlee. “It creates disequilibrium in the environment. As a community we’re trying to adjust to the rapid influx of people that are looking for jobs and services communities can provide.”

Davis explained his stance on the current illegal immigration issue rests on the Statue of Liberty in Ellis Island, New York. Davis then proceeded to quote writer Emma Lazarus, who is quoted on Liberty, ” Give me your tired, your poor…”

“I don’t think that the enemy is necessarily the poor immigrant who’s trying to get something to eat,” said Davis.

Davis’ stance on the illegal immigration in the country sparked much debate at the meeting. Topping the list of contentions among African Americans present was the shrinking job market.

“Do you want to be an adversary or do you want to try and find a way to co-exist and to reach a certain level of hope?” asked Davis.

Among the attendants in favor of immigration reform was Roger Uriostegui, a 42-year-old, Schiller Park resident. He said he believes the mentality that immigrants are taking jobs from the labor pool is narrow-minded. He said that he feels illegal immigrants are being portrayed as criminals, which is unjust.

As a Latino, Uriostegui said he encourages African Americans and Latinos to work together to find a solution to the illegal immigration issue.

“If we create a conflict between the Latinos and African Americans no one is going to win,” said Uriostegui.