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EDITORIAL: Waiting for Gov. Rauner to show true colors on immigration

Belmont Cragin community residents and leaders gathered earlier this year to demand answers into the shooting of a 53-year-old man in his home by an immigration agent. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner has said repeatedly that he supports immigration reform.

For the sake of Illinois, it’s time he showed it.


In addition to immigrants and advocacy groups, a coalition of business leaders, farmers and CEOs wants the governor to sign a bill that would require immigration agents to produce criminal warrants when they want cops to help arrest or detain immigrants. The groups worry the bill is in jeopardy, especially in light of the firings this month of several top aides to Rauner.

Most of the key replacements on Rauner’s staff are from the libertarian Illinois Policy Institute, which some supporters of the bill fear does not bode well. But the IPI takes no position on immigration policy, Melanie Krakauer, the organization’s media relations manager, told us in an email. She added: “As individuals, our team is composed of immigrants as well as sons, daughters, spouses and parents to immigrants who support immigration reform.”

This decision is on Rauner. He can’t keep leaning on the broad generality that he supports immigration reform and wait around for Congress to get to it. Republicans in Washington have shown no interest in passing reform. Meantime, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have ramped up deportations, which has had a chilling effect on immigrant communities.

The governor can bring some peace of mind to those communities by requiring criminal warrants when agents want local cops to do their work. It would be an attempt to keep the Trump administration honest in its mission to rid the country of  “bad hombres.” Folks who are law-abiding, except for immigrating to this country without proper documentation, are not the bad guys.

Some cities and counties, including Chicago and Cook County, already have guidelines that outline when cops will work with immigration agents. They want criminal warrants. Critics call the guidelines “sanctuary” policies, which is a misnomer. “Sanctuary” implies immigrants are untouchable. That’s just not true. Immigration agents still have the authority to pick up immigrants and deport them.

We understand this bill puts Rauner in a bind. He doesn’t want to alienate core supporters who live downstate, many of whom support Trump and his anti-immigrant policies. But the governor has styled himself — clearly — as pro-immigrant. It’s time he showed he means it.

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