Critics complain law too lenient and promotes 'sanctuary' status
Gov. Bruce Rauner's decision to sign a bill that will limit how local and state police can cooperate with federal immigration authorities has led to some dissension within the Republican party, with even some who have previously backed him criticizing the move.
Rauner traveled to a Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago to sign Senate Bill 31, known as the Trust Act.
The bill states that law enforcement officers "shall not stop, arrest, search, detain, or continue to detain a person solely based on an individual's citizenship or immigration status."
But local authorities will be able to communicate with immigration agents and hold someone for immigration authorities if there is a valid criminal warrant.
Rauner stressed at the bill signing that the law would help law enforcement keep communities safe as residents would be willing to talk to police as victims or witnesses, without fearing deportation.
"Illinois has been welcoming of immigrants for a long time, and this bill will continue that tradition," Rauner was quoted as saying in a news release marking the bill signing. "It also makes clear that stopping violent crime will be law enforcement's mission rather than working on federal prerogatives that a federal court has found illegal."
But the law's critics have called it a "sanctuary" measure that they say is too lenient on the issue of illegal immigration.
State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, noted that President Donald Trump easily won the 15th Congressional District – and many parts of Illinois outside Chicago – with many voters choosing Trump for his immigration policy.
"Yet what the governor has done is support codifying illegal immigration," McCarter said. "This means a lot to people. Trust is a hard thing to re-establish once you've lost it."
Rauner's news release said that the Northern District of Illinois federal court has found that immigration detainer orders from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are illegal.
Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the governor's re-election campaign, said in a statement that the bill was "a compromise measure that brought together people from all sides and was endorsed by law enforcement.
"He's always looking for ways we can make our state stronger, safer, and more prosperous," she said.
McCarter said he was one of three Republican senators who endorsed Rauner during the 2014 primary.
"I made the case with social conservatives that look to me for leadership that what had been done in the past decade was fiscally immoral," McCarter said. "Therefore, we counted on him to right the ship, fiscally, [and] make it better for families. Yet in this situation, he has chosen to support those that are illegal over the safety of the citizens that are here."
McCarter noted that he's disagreed with some other measures signed by Rauner, including a bill that would make it easier for transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificate without requiring transition surgery.
"There's only so much that you can deviate from the platform of the party, and he's done that," McCarter said. "This Senate Bill 31 could be the final straw."
Rosanna Pulido of Springfield hasn't been a fan of Rauner, who she said has "never been a Republican." She has been deeply involved in trying to stop illegal immigration including being a "minuteman" on the Arizona-Mexico border in 2005.
She is also traveling to Washington, D.C., this week to with "a group of people who have had loved ones killed by illegal aliens" to push legislation to cut off federal funds going to sanctuary cities or states. She said victim family members "tried several times" to contact Rauner through his office, and "each time they were turned away."
Kukowski's response did not address questions about Pulido's assertion about the attempts to set up a meeting.
"A lot of conservative Republicans are looking for a new home," said Pulido, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House in the 5th Congressional District in 2010.
The state GOP has emphasized, in a memo sent to party officials that the Trust Act is "not a sanctuary state bill," and that Rauner prevented Democrats from going in that direction. It also states the law complies with federal statutes, and "was negotiated from a 40-page bill to a 2-page bill, thanks to the input from members of the law enforcement community, Republican lawmakers, and Governor Rauner's negotiating team."
It said Rauner and law enforcement leaders "rewrote the original bill to protect police officers and help fight crime in communities across Illinois."
The memo also noted that officers can communicate with federal officials, and will be able to "focus their attention and resources on dangerous criminal offenders, particularly those who are not in Illinois legally."
Local law enforcement will also be able to "detain illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, bringing Illinois in line with federal court rulings and existing law," the memo said.
Fred Floreth of Springfield, a lawyer and member of the Republican State Central Committee, said he would not have signed the bill, but he understands it to have support of law enforcement, and that it underwent "big improvements" to reach its final form.
Given that, he said of the governor and his staff, "I can appreciate that they thought it was not unreasonable."
State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, a co-sponsor of the bill, was at the bill signing.
"I've never seen a photo-op so aggressively managed," Harmon said, "as they tried to push all of the law enforcement people in uniforms between the governor and the legislators, so they were the backdrop."
While Harmon is glad the governor signed the bill, he added, "I think he missed the mark in not acknowledging the importance to the immigrant community ... instead focusing on the law-and-order aspect."
Harmon also doesn't think the action will yield support for the governor from independents or Democrats.
"I don't think the governor has much hope of gaining back the middle, and certainly [he won't be] gaining any Democrats," Harmon said. "I think they learned the lesson in the last election."