Illinois 'welcoming bill' goes to Governor

Rep. Chris Welch was chief sponsor of bill in the House


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By Deborah Kadin

Senate Bill 31, known as the Trust Act, has passed the General Assembly and is heading to the governor's desk.

If the bill becomes law, municipalities in Illinois would be prohibited from using local resources to enforce civil immigration laws, making Illinois one of the first states in the union to declare itself safe and "welcoming" to immigrants.

Under SB 31, county and state police also will be barred from searching, arresting, or detaining a person based solely on a person's citizenship or immigration status. The only way local law enforcement can do that is if they have a court-issued, enforceable order, said Rep. Chris Welch, (D-7th), the chief sponsor of the Trust Act in the Illinois House.

Sanctuary and welcoming city ordinances adopted by Oak Park, Chicago, Evanston, Berwyn and other communities, as well as Cook County, will be superseded by the Trust Act.

Resolutions or ordinance under review by River Forest and Forest Park and other villages also could become moot. River Forest had intended to bring up a resolution for board discussion in June. It is uncertain if Forest Park is considering something similar.

Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO, the West Suburban Action Project, said Wednesday that the Trust Act, which her group helped to write, is important legislation but that it does not supersede "welcoming ordinances" in individual communities. 

"Local ordinances, such as those passed by Oak Park, Berwyn, Cook County and other communities are strengthened, not mooted, by the passage of the Trust Act. Most ordinances provide protections stronger than those offered by the Trust Act. Local ordinances ensure that all city or village employees, not only law enforcement, refrain from asking or collecting information about immigration status. Strong local ordinances also prohibit cities from participating in national registries based on religion or ethnic origin. … It is critical that communities continue to pass local ordinances to strengthen support for immigrants and other impacted communities."

If signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the bill would go into effect on July 1, said Sen. Don Harmon (D-39th) of Oak Park, a principal sponsor of the legislation in the upper chamber.

The concern was that "Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would press local law enforcement to enforce civil immigration matters, and that's prohibited. Local officers will not be acting as an agent of the federal government. Police will be enforcing local laws," Harmon said.

At least two measures — Senate Bill 31 and House Resolution 426 — were introduced in the General Assembly. The latter would have forbidden schools, healthcare facilities and churches from granting access to state and local law enforcement. It also would have barred employees of schools from asking about a student's immigration status. The safe havens language did not make it into the rewritten law, said Welch, a principal sponsor of the House bill.

Both SB 31 and HR 426 passed their respective chambers on a party-line vote. The Senate bill was approved in early May; the House bill was rewritten and approved on Memorial Day. The Senate voted in favor of what is called a concurrence, i.e., agreement with the re-written House bill, on May 31.

At least 36 states and the District of Columbia have considered legislation this year on both sides of the question of sanctuary jurisdictions or noncompliance with immigration detainers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

California, New York, Nevada, Maryland and Vermont either have adopted or are considering measures, according to an April 10 article in the New York Times.

Proponents say the legislation is meant to increase trust between immigrant communities and police. This is particularly important, proponents say, because without that trust undocumented immigrants may be afraid to report crimes, such as domestic violence and sexual abuse.

In a March 28 article in the Chicago Tribune, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx expressed concern that the current administration's language and actions on illegal immigration are "creating a chilling effect," in which victims of crimes are choosing not to testify for fear of being deported if they show up in court. A spokesman for the state's attorney's office could not provide statistics to back that up.

A confidential hotline, 312-603-8678, has since been set up in the state's attorney's office for people to complain about immigration scams.

While the presidential campaign of Donald Trump focused attention on stripping federal funds from sanctuary cities, there has been no mention of states that enacted similar measures.

In January, Trump signed an executive order stating that cities that do not comply with federal immigration enforcement agents "are not eligible to receive federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary [of Homeland Security]," according to the executive order.

In late March, 34 cities and counties filed separate suits or supported legal action to block enforcement of the order, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

A month later, a U.S. District Court judge temporarily blocked the executive order, saying, among other things that "the constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the president, so the order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds."

June 7, 4 p.m. This article has been updated to include comments from Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO, the West Suburban Action Project.


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Deborah Kadin from oak park  

Posted: June 7th, 2017 2:55 PM

Unbeknownst to me when I wrote the story, communities can adopt welcoming ordinances that are stronger than the state's law if they choose to.

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