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Rauner vetoes three ‘bad’ immigration bills, raps ‘sanctuary concept’

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to supporters at a Governor's Day event at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield last week. File Photo. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed three immigration measures on Friday, describing them in a Downstate radio interview as “very important bad bills” that Illinois Democrats are using to support illegal immigration.

Rauner said in the radio interview on WJPF that one of the measures — which would have banned state agencies, as well as public schools and universities from asking about citizenship or immigration status — is “sort of part of that whole sanctuary concept, and I’m against that.”

Rauner did sign two immigration measures, however. One is the Anti-Registry Program Act, which will bar state and local agencies from creating registry programs that single out Illinois residents based on race, national origin, religion or other characteristics. The other the governor said he’d sign would remove immigration barriers to many professional licenses in the state.

The governor’s office said the immigration laws Rauner signed “align with the Governor’s belief that the nation and the state of Illinois should be immigrant-friendly within the bounds of federal immigration law.”

Rauner’s signing of the Trust Act last year got him into some hot water with the state’s conservatives and was used as ammunition by primary challenger state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton. The law restricts local law enforcement from collaborating with federal immigration agents to detain anyone unless the feds have a warrant.

Still, Rauner has said he does not support sanctuary cities or Illinois being a sanctuary state.

With just 10 weeks to go before the November election, Rauner is working hard to gain back some of his conservative backers.

The immigration measures were part of a package that the Illinois General Assembly passed during the last session.

The Voices Act would have required Illinois law enforcement to sign off on immigration paperwork within 90 business days for immigrant victims who help police and prosecutors bring criminals to justice. Federal officials already offer immigration visas for victims of violence, but the federal law doesn’t offer a deadline for that certification to occur. Lawmakers wanted a deadline for immigrants who are often left in legal limbo.

“That ties the hands of law enforcement. It can delay deportations, which should otherwise occur and again that’s a bad bill and we’re going to be against that,” Rauner said. “We don’t want to be tying the hands of our local law enforcement.”

In his veto message, the governor said the bill would mark a “significant change of law concerning the obligations of law enforcement agencies.” He also stressed that it would have been an “unfunded mandate upon already strained State, local and federal law enforcement agencies beyond justifiable law enforcement need.”

Rauner also vetoed the Immigration Safe Zones Act, which would ban state agencies, as well as public schools and universities from asking about citizenship or immigration status unless required by law or court order. It would also have required the Illinois attorney general to come up with rules on how public schools, hospitals, libraries and courthouses could limit assistance to immigration authorities without breaking federal and state laws.

“That’s wrong as well, and that bill would direct the attorney general to publish policies unlimiting the assistance between state officials and immigration enforcement at the federal level,” Rauner said. “That is wrong. That’s sort of part of that whole sanctuary concept, and I’m against that.”

The third piece of legislation Rauner vetoed is the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act, which would have prohibited landlords from harassing or retaliating against immigrant tenants.

“We should not be tying the hands of any property owners in the state or supporting illegal immigration in that way,” Rauner said in the interview.

The Republican governor said illegal immigration in Illinois “pushes up our unemployment rate, and that holds down wages in Illinois.”

“It takes jobs away from Americans,” Rauner said. “So we’ve got to stand against that.”

In an op-ed published in the Sun-Times, former Gov. Jim Edgar wrote in support of the entire immigration package, which included the two bills that Rauner signed.

Edgar called for Rauner to sign all five.

“Collectively, these bills also serve as a counterbalance to the invective and hyperbolic accusations by some in my own party about immigrants in our society,” Edgar wrote. “Each bill reflects the struggle, fears and challenges faced by immigrants, which have only been amplified by the current administration in Washington.”

Rauner’s Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker in a statement called the vetoes “a cowardly, political move that exploits divisions he and Donald Trump try to make in our society.”