Rea­son for Loy­ola nun’s honor catches Rauner off guard, forc­ing him to ex­plain con­tro­ver­sial po­si­tion on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion


It was de­signed to be a feel-good event with the Loy­ola Ram­blers’ beloved Sis­ter Jean.

But it ended with Gov. Bruce Rauner yet again ex­plain­ing his po­si­tion on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion.

That’s be­cause the 99-year-old Loy­ola Univer­sity-Chicago bas­ket­ball team chap­lain was be­ing hon­ored in part for help­ing the univer­sity’s un­doc­u­mented stu­dents re­ceive fi­nan­cial aid. That caught the gover­nor off guard on Fri­day, even though the state’s Se­nior Hall of Fame award was be­ing be­stowed by Rauner’s own Illi­nois Depart­ment on Ag­ing, and the gover­nor was help­ing present the honor.

It was an­other warm mo­ment for Sis­ter Jean Dolores Sch­midt, who stole fans’ hearts root­ing on the side­lines and pray­ing with mem­bers of the univer­sity men’s bas­ket­ball team as they made their way to the Fi­nal Four ear­lier this year.

But it was also the end to a gru­el­ing cam­paign week for Rauner, which in­cluded tense ap­pear­ances with Demo­crat J.B. Pritzker at both the Sun-Times Ed­i­to­rial Board and a fi­nal de­bate in Down­state Quincy.

At Loy­ola’s Wa­ter Tower Cam­pus on Fri­day, Rauner stood along­side state Se­nate Pres­i­dent John Culler­ton as Sis­ter Jean was in­ducted into the state’s Se­nior Hall of Fame for “out­stand­ing achieve­ments in ed­u­ca­tion.” Culler­ton, a Demo­crat, nom­i­nated Sis­ter Jean for the honor.

Culler­ton said Sis­ter Jean “has opened doors to non-tra­di­tional stu­dents” and “worked to ex­pand higher ed­u­ca­tion for im­mi­grants.”

Re­porters at the cer­e­mony were handed a fact sheet that de­tailed “pro­grams Sis­ter Jean is in­volved in that sup­ported her nom­i­na­tion to this award.” One of the two listed was the Magis Schol­ar­ship, a pro­gram for un­doc­u­mented stu­dents at Loy­ola who demon­strate fi­nan­cial need but don’t qual­ity for fed­eral fi­nan­cial aid.

Speak­ing to re­porters af­ter the in­duc­tion, Rauner was asked whether he sup­ports fi­nan­cial aid pro­grams for un­doc­u­mented stu­dents, in light of Sis­ter Jean’s work with the pro­gram. The univer­sity was the first to ac­cept un­doc­u­mented med­i­cal stu­dents, and also has a “safe space” pro­gram for un­doc­u­mented stu­dents.

“I’m not fa­mil­iar with the [Magis] pro­gram,” Rauner said. “I’d have to learn more about it be­fore I could com­ment on that pro­gram.”

The gover­nor did not spec­ify whether he would sup­port fi­nan­cial aid for un­doc­u­mented stu­dents, in­stead out­lin­ing his be­liefs that there’s a need for “com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form.”

“Noth­ing has changed on my views on im­mi­gra­tion what­so­ever. I sup­port com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form,” Rauner said. “That means stream­lin­ing and sup­port­ing le­gal im­mi­gra­tion and try­ing to end il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. And as part of do­ing that, com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form, I do be­lieve there could be a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for cer­tain un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants. That’s been my view, al­ways has been and con­tin­ues to be.”

Ear­lier this week, Rauner came un­der fire for link­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion to crime.

He ini­tially said il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion takes away jobs from Amer­i­cans, “hurts union work­ers, farm work­ers, fac­tory work­ers, hurts wages and raises un­em­ploy­ment.”

When asked if he had un­em­ploy­ment fig­ures to back that state­ment, the gover­nor said yes: “One of the rea­sons we have such high un­em­ploy­ment in the city of Chicago, and so much crime, is the mas­sive num­ber of il­le­gal im­mi­grants here take jobs away from Amer­i­can cit­i­zens in Chicago.”

A day later, the Repub­li­can gover­nor ex­plained that he was link­ing il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion to crime, but not call­ing the un­doc­u­mented work­ers crim­i­nals.

Rauner told re­porters he didn’t be­lieve the un­doc­u­mented are “act­ing vi­o­lently or do­ing the vi­o­lence them­selves.” He said il­le­gal im­mi­grants take jobs away from le­gal cit­i­zens — con­tribut­ing to un­em­ploy­ment, which then can lead to crime.

On Fri­day, Rauner did his best to keep the fo­cus on Sis­ter Jean, say­ing she em­bod­ies “ev­ery­thing that’s won­der­ful in life: faith love of com­mu­nity, love of God, giv­ing back to those most vul­ner­a­ble among us.”

Sis­ter Jean ad­dressed the crowd for about 10 min­utes, draw­ing laughs and ap­plause.

“I just get emo­tional when I get these awards when I hear all these won­der­ful things said about my­self, it’s sort of a view of life as it was, and I think of my­self, ‘Oh yes I did that.’ It’s kind of nice,” Sch­midt said.

She joked about her age, say­ing she wants “ev­ery­one to work un­til you want to ac­tu­ally stop, and you re­ally never should stop.”

And speak­ing of her ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing March Mad­ness, she said she was once told she had more re­porters in the room than Tom Brady.

“So I guess that’s a real com­pli­ment,” she said. “And you know, I al­ways say to the press — don’t let any­body put you down. You know you have spe­cial work to do. So just keep do­ing it. It’s very im­por­tant.”

“That’s true,” Rauner in­ter­jected.


Gov. Bruce Rauner vis­its with Sis­ter Jean Dolores Sch­midt on Fri­day at Loy­ola Univer­sity.


Gov. Bruce Rauner vis­its with Loy­ola Univer­sity men’s bas­ket­ball team chap­lain Sis­ter Jean Dolores Sch­midt on Fri­day.

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