An Illinois sheriff is under fire for comments he made in which critics say he compared U.S. immigration policy to Nazi Germany.
But Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran defended his comments to Fox News Latino, saying they were taken out of context.
Speaking at a debate on Illinois’ controversial legislation that grants driver’s license to the state’s estimated 250,000 undocumented immigrants, Curran responded to an audience member who said that granting undocumented immigrants a driver’s license was “a slap in the face” to the rule of law.
Curran, a conservative Republican sheriff of a county of over 700,000 people next to Chicago, is a vocal supporter of immigration in the U.S.
“Ultimately, I believe in the rule of law. But we have to be honest about that. When we talk about the rule of law, a couple of things,” Curran said. “One, our country had the rule of law that women didn’t have the right to vote. Minorities didn’t. Rosa Parks got caught in the rule of law. We can go on. Nazi Germany was the rule of law. So, ultimately, some laws are unjust in some sense.”
Critics said they took offense to Curran's choice of words.
“If you’re going to compare the U.S. immigration policy to Nazi Germany than you have to be prepared to tell people where you’ll find the death camps and gas chambers,” said Dave Gorak, the executive director of the Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration. “There is no truth in the case of what Mark Curran is trying to establish.”
Curran, a conservative Republican sheriff of a county of over 700,000 people bordering Chicago, is a vocal supporter of immigration in the U.S, a “compassionate conservative” approach to the issue akin to the philosophy of former President George W. Bush.
Lake County’s population is 21 percent Latino.
In an interview, Curran said that his comments were blown out of proportion.
“I did not say it about immigration,” Curran said. “I said ‘Let’s not get hung up on the rule of law.’”
He has traveled to Washington to speak to congressional leaders about fixing what he calls a “broken immigration system” and believes that immigration reform will ultimately help secure U.S. borders.
“I’d like to address these issues as a long-term strategy,” he said. “But nothing is going to happen when we’re in this limbo state.”
In Illinois, the driver’s license law flew through the state's House and Senate with bipartisan support earlier in January.
Eligible applicants are required to live in Illinois for at least a year, show proof of residence and make an appointment with the Department of Motor Vehicles to fill out necessary paperwork. But the licenses cannot be used as a form of government identification.
New Mexico and Washington already have similar laws in place.