U.S. Senator from Illinois Dick Durbin spoke to Loyola students about his career, his work on immigraton reform and chairing the confirmation hearing of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson during an April 20 event hosted by Loyola’s Inside Government.
During the event which was hosted on Loyola’s Water Tower Campus, students asked the senator for advice on breaking into the political field and about his time in private law practice.
Philip Hale, Loyola’s vice president of government affairs, gave Durbin a sweeping introduction with an overview of some of his legislative accomplishments. Hale, the advisor to Inside Government — a student organization for students interested in careers in politics — said he was pleased with how the event turned out.
“It’s just wonderful to have [Durbin] here,” Hale told The Phoenix. “He puts a face on government which is great and one of the goals I have with Inside Government.”
Participating students were asked to submit questions for Durbin beforehand which were then to be asked by a student moderator. However, following opening remarks Durbin instead decided he wanted to hear questions from the audience directly and took questions for the floor.
This came as a surprise to the organizers who had anticipated prepared questions, due to the senator’s tight schedule. The event which was originally meant to be one hour long, was shortened to 45 minutes as a conflict arose in Durbin’s day.
“We knew it was going to be tight, that’s why we asked people to submit questions in advance,” Hale said. “The questions that had been asked online the most, about Justice Jackson, about the Dream Act, and getting involved in politics, they all came out and were asked. Thankfully, our guest thrived off the nature of the live questions.”
Durbin is the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is the body that oversees the confirmation of Supreme Court Nominees. Durbin was asked several questions on this process, as he and the committee are fresh off the hearing and confirmation of Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson April 7.
Durbin said he was disappointed with the conduct of some of his Republican colleagues on the committee, as they asked what he felt were bad faith questions. However, he said overall he was pleased with the confirmation process.
He said his favorite moment in the process was at the confirmation celebration hosted by President Joe Biden on the White House Lawn April 8. Durbin said Justice Brown’s father pulled him aside and thanked him for helping his daughter through the process.
The senator also discussed the DREAM Act, which would grant residency to undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors, which he wrote and has been advocating for on the floor of the senate since 2001.
He highlighted Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine during his remarks, as he said it was the first higher education institution to open up eligibility to Dreamers.
“You oughta be damn proud to be involved in a university that sees the world this way,” he said.
A few students in the audience, who are Dreamers protected by the DACA program who the bill would help, thanked Durbin for his efforts but asked questions about the path forward and his strategy for the legislation. Durbin said he is continuing to appeal to lawmakers on the issue.
“I want to tell your story, that’s how you win people,” the senator told the students.
Maggie Jones, the graduate assistant for government affairs at Loyola, spoke as a student representative for Inside Government. She thanked Durbin for his visit and said she was pleased with the event’s turnout.
“I am very proud of how well it went,” she said. “I’m very proud of Inside Government for hosting an event of this caliber.”