It is one of the cornerstones of Donald Trump’s campaign platform, and the issue that has inflamed passions on both sides: Trump has pledged repeatedly to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and to have Mexico foot the estimated $5 to $10 billion to pay for it.
But a high-ranking Republican congressman on Wednesday told the Illinois delegation that Trump's promise amounts to little more than a metaphor for fixing the country's broken immigration system.
It doesn't necessarily mean a physical wall will get built, he said.
“Donald Trump speaks in shorthand too much,” said California U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa in a breakfast speech before Illinois delegates.
“‘Build a wall’ is code for, ‘Let's get our immigration system working so that, if you're here legally, we work with you. If you're illegally here, you don't get a job.’”
Illinois U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, who says he will vote for Trump but won't necessarily support him, says the nominee has been unclear on the specifics of his policy as it relates to immigration reform and border control. And he says a physical wall across the entire border with Mexico isn't a given.
“This is up to Donald Trump to define these terms that he articulated in the campaign,” Roskam said. “We need control of the border. If it's a physical manifestation, or high tech, or whatever it happens to be, that's up to him to tell us.”
But the Trump delegates in attendance weren't buying the concept of wall as metaphor.
“Trump says build a physical wall, I think that means he's going to build a wall,” said delegate Maria Hough.
“I think the congressman is sadly mistaken,” said delegate Stella Kozanecki, an 80-year-old first timer from downstate Mount Vernon. “It means build a wall.”
Trump delegate Mark Fratella, an Evanston public school teacher who lives in Elmhurst, takes an all-of-the-above approach.
“The ‘build a wall’ has two meanings: the physical meaning and just securing our borders, because we don't know who's coming into this country,” Fratella said. “We want a wall, but we want a door in that wall for legal, orderly immigration.”
Later the Illinois delegation attended parties and receptions honoring Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois Republican legislative leaders Christine Radogno and Jim Durkin. But none of the honorees were there.
Rauner and Radogno have stayed away from the convention and Durkin, who was in town earlier this week, left Wednesday morning.
The fetes were sponsored by a slew of companies—including ComEd, AT&T, the Illinois Coal Association and State Farm—underscoring the fundraising that goes on at these conventions, although “Chicago Tonight” was told many companies stayed away this year.
Join “Chicago Tonight” for continued coverage of the Republican National Convention all week.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz
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