The usually calm, cool and collected Cong. Danny Davis got his feathers ruffled last Thursday during a Maywood town hall on the illegal immigration.

Davis responded to public concerns regarding the employment of illegal immigrants, border control and other immigration-related contentions at his district town hall in Maywood.

The town hall meeting, Davis has said, is a way for the residents to provide information on issues of public concern within the community. The predominate concern at this recent Thursday night exchange centered on the current illegal immigration battle raging in the United States.

Federal agencies put the number of illegal immigrants in the United States at around 11 million. Some residents in attendance Thursday argued that illegal immigrants are being employed in the United States, and consequently harming the existing unemployment problem in the country, particularly for African Americans.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for African Americans was 8.4 percent as of May 2006, the highest unemployment rate for an ethnicity.

“It’s one thing when you have a natural evolution of a population in an environment growing naturally; it’s another thing when you’re ejecting a large number of people into that environment,” said Maywood resident, Edward Brownlee.

The back-and-forth debate between Davis and some residents, and among the residents themselves, at times got testy.

Davis, explaining his stance on the current illegal immigration issue, cited the poem by Emma Lazarus inscribed the Statue of Liberty in Ellis Island, New York: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Davis said he believed employers who hire illegal immigrants should be punished, but that illegal immigrants “are the not the enemy.”

“I don’t think that the enemy is necessarily the poor immigrant who’s trying to get something to eat,” he said.

Opponents, particularly African American, gave their personal concerns and experiences about illegal immigrants, including their impact on the shrinking U.S. job market.

Roger Uriostegui, 42, of Schiller Park who favors immigration reform, said the mentality that immigrants are taking jobs from the labor pool is narrow-minded. He said illegal immigrants’ being portrayed as criminals is unjust.

“If I get a speeding ticket, I broke the law, but I’m not a criminal,” said Uriostegui, a Latino, encouraging African Americans and Latinos to work together.

“If we create a conflict between the Latinos and African Americans no one is going to win,” he said. “I invite them to embrace a win-win situation with an open mind where we can work together to find a solution to this situation for both our mutual benefits.”