Rauner faces backlash for comments about illegal immigration, Chicago crime

CHICAGO -- The two billionaires running for Illinois governor squared off Wednesday over their finances. Gov. Bruce Rauner accused his Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker of being a tax cheat, with a good chance of winding up in jail, and the governor’s remarks about illegal immigration have gotten backlash from Latino leaders in Chicago.

At a debate in front of the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board Tuesday, the governor said the reason for unemployment and crime in Chicago is because undocumented immigrants take jobs away from Americans and hold down wages.

Reaction from the Latino community in Chicago came quick after the governor's comments.

"What you're seeing is somebody in an act of desperation," Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th Ward, said.

Villegas, the chair of the City Council's Latino Caucus said recent polls, which show Pritzker with a 20-point lead over the incumbent governor, are driving Rauner to embrace an extreme right-wing ideology.

"Thirty days out, the governor starts invoking some 'Trump-isms' and talking about how immigrants are the cause of all the crime in the city," Villegas said.

Rauner said his own words have been twisted into a political hit.

The Pritzker campaign issued a statement saying the following:

Yesterday, Rauner parroted Donald Trump by viciously blaming immigrants for violence in Chicago and today he is back to desperate political attacks.

Cook County Commissioner, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia weighed in on the controversy.

"A month ago, Gov. Rauner was in Little Village yelling 'Viva Mexico' and talking about the great things of the Mexican and immigrant community, and yesterday he's saying 'Viva Trump,'" he said.

The governor said he’s not calling immigrants criminals, although he said he does see a link between crime and illegal immigration. But while working to clear the air about his own remarks on immigration, he stopped short of supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

“I support legal immigration," he said. "Legal immigration. I'm against illegal, undocumented immigration. We should stop that,” the governor said.

The governor also lashed out again Wednesday at his Democratic challenger and accusing him of gaming the system by keeping his wealth in tax-havens offshore.