From the moment of Donald Trump’s election, immigration advocates in Illinois have been looking for ways to not just survive the next four years but to keep advancing an immigrant-friendly agenda.
On Monday, they unveiled the Illinois TRUST Act, which seeks to extend some of the same local protections enjoyed by undocumented immigrants in Chicago and Cook County to the rest of the state.
A key provision in the legislation would bar state and local police in Illinois from engaging in immigration enforcement unless presented by federal immigration agents with a warrant issued by a judge, supporters said.
Another provision would bar federal immigration agents from entering schools or hospitals without a court-issued warrant.
The legislation will likely be portrayed by opponents as an attempt to make Illinois a “sanctuary state” that runs the risk of being susceptible to Trump’s threats to withhold federal funding.
For that reason, organizers led by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights intentionally avoided use of the word “sanctuary” and argued the legislation would not violate federal law.
The TRUST Act takes its name from the idea that immigrant communities are more likely to report crimes and cooperate with police if they trust their immigration status will not be made an issue.
Similar legislation has failed in the past because of concerns from local law enforcement officials, conceded Senate President John Cullerton of Chicago, the bill’s chief sponsor.
This time, Cullerton said, “we’re hopeful the law enforcement community will be supportive, rather than wary.”
Cullerton argued the measure would “free up” police to fight crime instead of enforcing immigration.
But many local jurisdictions are only too happy for their police to aid in the effort to remove those who entered the country illegally.
Cullerton was joined for the announcement by a handful of Democratic senators from the Chicago metro area, including Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, an announced candidate for governor.
Biss said he would welcome Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner joining the group at its next press conference to take credit for helping to pass the bill.
But Democrats would probably be just as happy if they could blame Rauner if the legislation fails.
Rauner has declared himself a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
But the governor has been cautious about spending political capital on immigration issues, especially in the wake of Trump’s anti-immigrant campaign, and Democrats have been looking to flush him out.
As of late Monday, the actual legislation had yet to be filed, so I must rely on supporters’ descriptions of what it would do.
In addition to barring local police from enforcing immigration laws, the measure would also prohibit state or local governments from participating in any federal registry based on national origin or religion.
That is aimed at the Muslim registry Trump promised during the campaign but has since avoided.
Another part of the bill would require law enforcement agencies to complete paperwork certifying some undocumented immigrants as crime victims. The certification allows immigrants to apply for legal status in the U.S. if they can also show they also cooperated in the investigation of the crime.
Immigrant rights advocates, looking for legal ways to protect immigrants in the face of Trump’s deportation threats, say many local law enforcement agencies either refuse to prepare the certifications or do so slowly.
This particular type of visa was originally intended to protect victims of domestic abuse. I’ll admit I’m puzzled by the logic of giving crime victims a leg up in the immigration process.
Lawrence Benito, the coalition’s chief executive officer, said the group wants to make Illinois “the most welcoming state for immigrants and refugees in the country.”
The problem may be that part of Illinois is welcoming, and part of it isn’t.Tweets by @MarkBrownCST