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Lisa Madigan spars with Rauner over immigration ban

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in 2015. File Photo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Monday again turned up the heat on Gov. Bruce Rauner, this time calling on Rauner to oppose President Donald Trump’s controversial ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Madigan’s open letter to Rauner on the immigration restrictions comes a little more than a week after she filed a lawsuit to block state employees from being paid until the state passes a budget. The move could lead to a government shutdown if Rauner and state lawmakers — including Madigan’s father, House Speaker Michael Madigan — can’t end a two-year impasse.

Madigan on Monday also filed a brief in federal appeals court in California, supporting a lawsuit filed by Washington state’s Attorney General that had temporarily upended Trump’s immigration restrictions.

Madigan’s letter to Rauner, which also was sent to news outlets with a press release on Monday afternoon, implied that Rauner might be called on to deputize the State Police to enforce immigration laws and called him to “strengthen” the state agency that supports refugees.

“I write to urge you to use your authority as the Governor of one of the most diverse states in the nation to protect all of the residents of Illinois – along with our employers and educational institutions – from the harm caused by these executive actions,” Madigan’s letter states.

Rauner’s office derided the letter as a stunt to distract from the pressing problems in Illinois.

“The attorney general’s press release is detached from reality and is clearly an attempt to distract from her efforts to stop the pay of state employees and force a crisis in Illinois,” according to a statement from spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis.

“The governor has no intention of deputizing the Illinois State Police as immigration officers, has signed legislation to strengthen Illinois’ hate crime statute, and supported the resettlement of thousands of refugees over the last two years.”

Rauner’s office also pointed out a letter to state agencies from 2015 that mandated strict adherence to anti-discrimination laws.

Rauner has remained mum on Trump’s immigration ban. In the fall of 2015, Rauner called for a mortatorium on the resettlement of Syrian refugees to Illinois after a string of terror attacks in Paris, France.

The Islamic State, a terrorist group based in Iraq and Syria, took credit for the attacks, though it is not clear if the men who carried out the attacks had traveled to Europe among waves of refugees fleeing the bloody Civil War in Syria or were Syrian-born. One of the attackers, known by the alias Ahmad Al Mohammad, had a phony Syrian passport and may have entered Europe with Syrian refugees, French authorities have said. Rauner was one of more than 20 governors nationwide who adopted similar moratoriums.

“Our nation and our state have a shared history of providing safe haven for those displaced by conflict, but the news surrounding the Paris terror attacks reminds us of the all-too-real security threats facing America,” Rauner said in a statement in 2015.

“We must find a way to balance our tradition as a state welcoming of refugees while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens.”

Madigan in January filed a motion in a St. Clair County lawsuit that would block the state from paying non-essential employees until a budget is passed. The case could force a government shutdown that Rauner seems desperately to want to avoid. The threat of a shutdown would seem to give leverage to Madigan’s father, House Speaker Michael Madigan and leader of the state’s Democrats, in his battle with Rauner.

Rauner has insisted that the Democrats who control both the House and Senate pass at least portions of his “Turnaround Agenda” package of reforms before he will sign off on a state budget, and has savaged Michael Madigan as

the man almost solely responsible for the state’s failing financial health. The stalemate between the two has left the state with no budget, which, by law, should prevent the state from sending paychecks to state employees whose work is not required by federal laws or court orders.

Without a budget, the state’s unpaid bills have continued to mount while state contractors, hospitals and universities have gone unpaid or have seen their state funding slashed.