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Demand a criminal warrant before cops can detain an immigrant

Surrounded by colleagues and advocates for immigrants, Senate President John Cullerton speaks at a news conference in April about the Illinois TRUST Act. | Supplied photo.

President Donald Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rant and rave about deporting dangerous immigrants who have committed violent crimes.

No problem there.

In reality, though, when they put pen to paper, their orders are more sweeping. Undocumented immigrants whose sole offense is being in the country illegally are being dragged into the deportation net. Across the country, panicked immigrants are terrified to leave their homes or send their kids to school because of the harsh orders and rhetoric.

Under a bill in the General Assembly, Illinois could keep the Trump administration more honest. Trump and Sessions still could deport dangerous criminals who are in our country illegally, as they should. But to get local police departments to detain or arrest somebody, federal immigration agents would have to provide a criminal warrant, as they should.


Proposed by Senate President John J. Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago, the bill called the Illinois TRUST Act passed Thursday in his chamber along party lines. It has moved on to the house, where two Democrats, Reps. Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Westchester and Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez of Cicero, are chief sponsors.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been mum on the bill. A spokeswoman for the governor says it is under review.

It’s worth noting that for years Rauner has said he supports immigration reform. In the absence of reform, this bill would give undocumented immigrants with no criminal backgrounds a little peace of mind. They also would be more likely to report crimes to the cops if they did not fear it could trigger their deportation.

This bill tells them “you can live your everyday life,” Hernandez told us.

Conservatives will call it a sanctuary bill, but supporters steer clear of that term because the bill offers only limited protections. That’s actually true of all sanctuary laws across the country, including Chicago’s and Cook County’s. This bill would not, for instance, prevent federal agents from going out on their own to arrest or detain immigrants.

To be absolutely clear, a detainer request from federal immigration authorities to a local police force or sheriff’s office does not compel compliance. It is a request, plain and simple, to hold someone. And judges in several court cases have now ruled that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for local law enforcement agencies, regardless of any federal request, to hold people in jail on detainers if they otherwise would have been released.

Under this Illinois bill, immigration agents still would be free to catch the bad guys. And local police departments still could help out. When there is a warrant.

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