GOP congressional candidates in 11th District differ on immigration, gun control

Jerry Evans, Susan Hathaway-Altman and Kent Mercado are the Republican candidates for Illinois' 11th Congressional District seat.

The three Republicans hoping to represent Illinois’ 11th District in Congress debated immigration, reproductive rights and other issues facing the nation Tuesday night in an online forum.

Candidates Susan Hathaway-Altman of Geneva, Jerry Evans of Warrenville and Kent Mercado of Bartlett agreed that states should decide whether abortion should be legal and that the U.S. needs to do a better job restricting the flow of migrants into the country.

But they stood apart on actual immigration policy, as well as whether they’d support gun control efforts as a way to increase public safety.

The candidates politely fielded questions for about an hour on Zoom from moderator Barb Laimins of the League of Women Voters of Wheaton.

When Laimins asked the trio about immigration, Evans − a music school owner who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination in 2022 − said he opposes offering asylum to anyone entering the U.S. illegally. He also advocated for speeding up the asylum adjudication process, saying cases should be decided within 72 hours while migrants are in custody.

Hathaway-Altman, a chief sales officer with AmTrav who also ran in 2022, strongly opposed that idea, saying the lawyers needed for such work will cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Instead, Hathaway-Altman said, the U.S. needs to better enforce existing immigration laws while still being a cultural melting pot.

Mercado, a physician making his first bid for Congress, said American borders need to be closed. The U.S. should end chain migration for families and eliminate the green card lottery, which formally is called the diversity immigrant visa program.

Mercado said he also opposes amnesty “as a mass cure for this.”

As for gun control, Mercado said he supports universal background checks for would-be firearms buyers. He also said law enforcement agencies need to do a better job sharing such information.

Mercado said he’s open to increasing the minimum age to buy firearms, and he spoke against the new Illinois law that requires the owners of some firearms to register those weapons.

Evans suggested no new gun laws and said the U.S. must do more to address mental health needs. He also said there should be more funding for police officers at schools and the installation of bulletproof glass at schools, among other safety efforts.

Hathaway-Altman said she wouldn’t support any additional gun laws.

The 11th District encompasses portions of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Boone counties.

The winner of the March 19 Republican primary will face Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville or Democratic challenger Qasim Rashid, also of Naperville, in November’s general election.

Tuesday’s forum was organized by the League of Women Voters of Naperville. A recording will be made public.