Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) bucked the conservative base of his own party and angered advocates for enforced immigration law, when he signed a bill into law Monday that protects illegal immigrants from being detained by police.
The bill, known as the Trust Act, prohibits state and local law enforcement officers from detaining or arresting an immigrant simply for being in the U.S. illegally. If the only complaint lodged against an illegal immigrant is a federal immigration detainer, law enforcement officials are prohibited from arresting or detaining the individual. But if a judge was to issue a warrant against an illegal immigrant, officials would be allowed to comply with the request.
“Illinois has been welcoming of immigrants for a long time, and this bill will continue that tradition,” Rauner said in a statement Monday. “It also makes clear that stopping violent crime will be law enforcement’s mission rather than working on federal prerogatives that a federal court has found illegal.”
Conceding that “this was not an easy bill to pass, let’s be clear,” the governor touted the bill as “a very reasonable, decent outcome,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Rauner also said that he asked law enforcement officials whether or not he should sign the bill that Illinois’s General Assembly passed back in May.
“I asked them, ‘Should I sign this bill, should I not sign this bill?'” he said. “They all said to me, ‘Governor, this is a reasonable compromise. It will help us do our jobs better, it will help us keep our communities safer.'”
Illinois state Rep. Chris Welch (D-Hillside), the Trust Act’s House sponsor, praised the GOP governor for signing the bill into law, saying in a statement that “Immigrants in our community should not have to feel unsafe when they go to work or take their children to school.”
“This legislation will ensure that proper legal procedures are being followed and provide peace of mind to members of our community,” Welch added, according to the Tribune.
But immigration enforcement advocates blasted Rauner for choosing to sign the bill into law instead of vetoing it, arguing that the governor’s move jeopardized the safety of the citizens he pledged to protect and serve and minimized the rule of law.
“It’s outrageous that Rauner was more interested in protecting criminal aliens than in allowing law enforcement agencies to cooperate with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], so that ICE can do its job,” Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), told LifeZette in an email.
“Rauner made a huge mistake, both on public safety and politically,” she added. “He did this without even speaking or meeting with people in his state whose families have been harmed by criminal aliens released by sanctuary policies. And there are too many people in that group, especially in the Chicago area, who have lost family members or been victimized by criminal aliens who were protected by sanctuary policies.”
The governor’s decision to sign the bill into law stands in stark contrast with President Donald Trump’s commitment to enforcing U.S. immigration laws and cracking down on so-called “sanctuary” cities and localities. Although Rauner and the Trust Act’s other supporters claim that the bill doesn’t constitute a “sanctuary” policy, others disagreed.
A Justice Department official criticized Illinois’s new law, telling Fox News, “As the attorney general has said, when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe.”
“Failure to deport aliens who are convicted for criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk — especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators,” the official continued.
Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), told LifeZette, “You can call it what you want, and it is what it is, and it is a sanctuary policy,” adding that the bill gives Illinois law enforcement officials leave to refuse “to cooperate except under extraordinary circumstances with federal detainer requests.”
“Chicago has become the murder capitol of the United States, and the last thing they need to be doing is putting more criminals back out on the streets in places like that,” he said. “So it seems that Governor Rauner was more influenced by a few very vocal groups that don’t have much public support for anybody. And he is willing to sacrifice public safety in order to kind of appease those small factions of very radical voters.”
The Illinois governor’s signing of the Trust Act also occurred shortly after Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) clashed over Chicago’s “sanctuary city” policies and the Trump administration’s decision to withhold federal funds from noncooperating cities. As a result, Chicago filed a lawsuit earlier this month.
“One result of [Rauner’s] support of the sanctuary bill will be that many jurisdictions in Illinois are now likely to lose access to federal law enforcement funding,” Vaughan noted. “How will he explain this to voters, and where is he going to find the revenue to pay for the law enforcement improvements needed to reverse the crime problems in places like Chicago?”
She added: “How can [Rauner] lead the state to economic progress if the crime problems persist? Sanctuary policies like this have proven to be a drag on the economy, because the state will continue to be a magnet for illegal immigration, and will be guaranteed to continue large payouts for welfare benefits, health care, and educational support.”
But illegal immigrant advocates lauded Rauner’s move, claiming that the Trust Act will encourage undocumented immigrants to cooperate with law enforcement officials and reports crimes with no fear of deportations.
“The Trust Act will enhance the cooperation between immigrant communities and law enforcement agencies across the state,” State Senate President John Cullerton (D) said in a statement earlier in May when the bill passed the general assembly, NBC Chicago reported.
“Also, it will facilitate a better use of limited resources allowing police agencies to focus on relationship building with their residents instead of doing the work of federal immigration agents,” he added.
But Mehlman insisted that “nobody is suggesting that police ask people about their immigration status when they’re the victim of a crime or when they’re providing information about a crime.”
“That’s not the time or the place for police to be asking about this,” he said. “You know, there are situations where it’s perfectly legitimate, or situations where it’s not a good idea to be asking at that particular moment.”
“But this goes way further. It says that they’re not going to cooperate with ICE, you know, pretty much under most circumstances, that they’re never going to ask about immigration status,” Mehlman added.
Noting that “there isn’t support for protecting criminal aliens” at the expense of legal citizens, he said that the federal government “has every right” to enforce its immigration laws.
“And by the way, you don’t have to have committed a crime in this country in order to be subject to deportation. What makes you subject to deportation is violating federal immigration laws,” Mehlman said. “Again, it’s not the responsibility for police in Illinois to do the federal government’s job for them. But when they have people in their custody who, you know, the federal government might want, then there’s no good reason for them to obstruct the federal government from doing its job.”
Vaughan warned that Rauner’s decision will backfire in his re-election bid.
“Liberal Republicans always make the mistake of thinking that they can out-pander the Democrats on immigration, and that they will be able to attract independent or liberal support if they go for these kind of misguided policies,” she said. “The truth is that voters everywhere overwhelmingly oppose sanctuary policies, including independents and even many Democrats.”
Republican state Sen. Kyle McCarter told the Tribune that “this could be the last straw, and every day I’m feeling it worse.”
“And this isn’t just the ‘right wing’ that’s angry. These are union members too, loyal union men trying to protect American jobs, and the last thing they need to see is a Republican governor making Illinois a sanctuary state,” McCarter added, saying that the “sanctuary-state thing” is “complicating” the GOP’s future message.