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Pritzker dubs new law barring evictions based on citizenship part of ‘firewall’ against Trump’s ‘climate of fear’

California has a similar measure, making Illinois the first state in the Midwest to take action to protect undocumented tenants.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs legislation in Chicago that prohibits landlords from using citizenship status to threaten tenants.
Tina Sfondeles/Chicago Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday signed a measure to stop landlords from evicting tenants based on their citizenship status, a move he pledged will give undocumented immigrants “a little more relief in these tumultuous times.”

The signing comes the same day that the Trump administration announced it’s ending a federal court agreement that limited the amount of time migrant families and children can be detained — in essence allowing them to be detained indefinitely or until their cases are decided.

The tenant protection bill is the latest in a series of immigration measures the Democratic governor has signed this year, and he’s repeatedly vowed that the state will stand as a “firewall” against President Donald Trump’s “attacks on our immigrant communities.” Former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a similar measure last year.

Under the new law, landlords are prohibited from evicting or retaliating against a tenant based on their citizenship or immigration status. Landlords are also prohibited from intimidating tenants by disclosing or threatening to disclose their status.

“Under this new law, landlords have no ability to evict tenants on the grounds of their immigration status. Where you were born has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to pay rent on time, which is what the relationship between a landlord and the tenant should really be about,” Pritzker said at a Chicago bill signing.

California has a similar measure, making Illinois the first state in the Midwest to take action to protect undocumented tenants.

“As our xenophobic president strikes a climate of fear, as Illinois stands up against him with our firewall, we will not stand by in silence,” Pritzker said. “Here in Illinois we are and always will be a welcoming state.”

Per the new law, if a landlord uses citizenship against a tenant, the tenant can bring a civil action to seek damages, a civil penalty up to $2,000 for each violation, attorney fees and other relief.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, said the measure will alleviate the fears of undocumented immigrants who worry their immigration status will be used against them.

“Many people live in a constant worry that if they complain about unsafe housing conditions, a landlord might report them because of their immigrant status as retaliation for speaking up,” Castro said. “This is essentially a form of blackmail. Quite frankly, it’s a shame that this sort of thing even needs to be legislated against.”

Asked about Trump’s new policy regarding detainees, Pritzker called the move “unconscionable” and said he’s speaking with federal legislators to ensure protection.

“But what we can do in the state of Illinois, I will stand up and do absolutely everything that I can to protect our residents here,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker last month signed measures to create a pathway for citizenship for undocumented children who have experienced trauma and extend legal guardianship for children whose parents have been detained.

And amid a threat of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Chicago in June, Pritzker signed three other immigration measures. Those included banning private civil detention centers; prohibiting law enforcement from engaging in federal immigration enforcement with ICE and allowing undocumented and transgender students to receive Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants.