On Monday, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed the Trust Act to limit local law enforcement agencies from engaging in federal immigration enforcement efforts to detain suspected undocumented immigrants.
Under the Illinois Trust Act, law enforcement officials would not arrest someone on the basis of suspecting that the person is an undocumented immigrant. Law enforcement officers also won’t honor detainers from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to detain undocumented immigrants for potential deportation proceedings unless a judge has issued a warrant.
The law faces scrutiny from the Trump administration and other Republicans who condemn such “sanctuary city”- type legislation for failing to turn over all undocumented immigrants for deportation proceedings. But advocates and law enforcement officials who attended the press conference were aligned in the belief that the Trust Act would actually greatly improve relations between immigrant communities and the police.
“Today our immigrant communities feel safer than ever coming to their local law enforcement, being witnesses to crimes that are committed, reporting if they are vicitimized or their loved ones are victimized,” Lake County Police Department Sgt. Christopher Covelli said at a press conference before Rauner signed the Trust Act. Covelli was one of several law enforcement officials present at the bill signing to support the legislation.
“Let’s face it, trust builds safer communities, plain and simple,” Covelli added.
“Our job is to take care of you, that’s what we want to do,” Leo P. Schmitz, the director of the Illinois State Police, said directing his comments at all Illinois residents, noting that he has worked in the community for 34 years. “Regardless of race, gender, or national origin, all people of Illinois should be feel secure and have the ability to reach out to us.”
“This law reinforces local and state communities to work with the federal government to protect the neighborhood, to protect the people in the state of Illinois,” Schmitz said.
The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police also supports the bill, in part because they agree that enabling local police to enforce immigration enforcement could worsen relations between their police departments and immigrant communities that may be too fearful of deportation to report crime. Those fears aren’t unfounded. Police chiefs in Houston, Texas and Los Angeles, California have said fewer people have been reporting serious crimes like rape and domestic violence as a result of the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants.
“We want anybody to feel free to call the police, and we would like to get the word out that this bill should make anyone living in Illinois feel comfortable about calling the police and getting the service they need,” Ed Wojcicki, the Executive Director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, wrote prior to the bill signing. He pointed out that there were “solid rational reasons” for his association to support the bill, including that it would codify into law a practice that’s already in place in several police departments.
“For the Illinois Chiefs, the bill mostly puts into law what is current practice for local police departments: They don’t pull people over only to check their immigration status,” Wojcicki wrote. “They do respond to calls for service when people are the victims of crime or involved in an accident. They do want Illinois residents to call local police if someone is battered, in an accident, or burglarized.”
Rauner is a rare advocate for immigrants at a time when President Donald Trump has called to financially penalize states and localities that aim to serve immigrants alongside other communities. The president previously signed an executive order to withhold federal funds from so-called “sanctuary cities” where local and state-level officials can choose not to collaborate with the ICE agency to detain undocumented immigrants. Rauner’s move also comes a few days after Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio who violated a federal judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinx individuals.
“Illinois is a state built by immigrants,” Rauner said on Fox News earlier this month, defending the Trust Act. “I work for everybody in the state of Illinois. Our immigration system is broken. We need to have a system that keeps the people of Illinois safe, the people of America safe. We have to keep that as a first priority.”
Illinois is home to more than half a million undocumented immigrants and one in seven people in the state were born in another country. The state’s Latinx community contributed $47.2 billion in purchasing power while Asian buying power totaled $30.3 billion in 2014, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.