4 Things To Know About Illinois’ Proposed Trust Act | WBEZ
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4 Things To Know About Illinois’ Proposed Trust Act

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign into law a bill that prohibits law enforcement officials from detaining illegal immigrants solely on their immigration status, his office announced this week. 

During an interview on WBEZ’s Morning Shift last week, Rauner indicated he supported the measure, known as the Trust Act. 

“It’s supported by law enforcement, it’s supported by the business community, it’s supported by the immigration community,” Rauner told Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia. “I think it seems very reasonable.”

WBEZ reporter Odette Yousef explains what’s in the bill and what it means for Chicago. Here are four key takeaways. 

1) What’s in the Trust Act 

Odette Yousef: The Trust Act is really very narrow. It deals exclusively with this question of what local and state law enforcement officials should do if they get a written request from immigration enforcement to place what’s called an “immigration hold” — also called an “administrative detainer” — on somebody that had been in their custody.

So basically, if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) suspects that somebody who had been in local or state custody is undocumented, they’ll send a written request to that agency and say, “Hold onto this person for up to 48 hours. We want to do a little research and find out if this person is here illegally or not.”

What the Trust Act says is local and state law enforcement officials will not honor those requests. But they may comply if there is an actual criminal warrant that’s issued by a judge to hold someone.

This basically clarifies the limits of what local law enforcement will do when it comes to immigration enforcement.

2) What isn’t in the Trust Act

Yousef: Months ago when we started discussing the Trust Act, there were several different components to it. It was more than 40 pages long.

I think the two main things that have been stripped out of it are items that concerned what they called “safe zones.” What they were initially pushing for was to have limits on ICE agents conducting raids or enforcement actions in places like schools or hospitals, places that are publicly administered. That was stripped out. I believe it’s in a separate bill they’re trying to work on.

The other thing that they stripped out was the U-visa stuff. U-visas are visas that grant temporary legal status to an immigrant who has reported or cooperated extensively with law enforcement in the prosecution of a crime. 

If somebody wants to apply for a U-visa, they basically have to get a certification from the law enforcement agency saying that they cooperated before they can apply for the U-visa. Immigrant advocates wanted a clerical process to become standardized across the state. I think that there were some concerns that this was perhaps going to place too much of a burden on some local law enforcement agencies. 

3) How the Trust Act differs from Chicago’s sanctuary policies

Yousef: The thing that many of the immigrant activists like about the Trust Act is that it doesn’t have any exceptions in it. So under no circumstances can local law enforcement honor an administrative detainer request. 

In Chicago, there are certain cases where law enforcement may cooperate with ICE. That is if the detainer request is concerning somebody who has an outstanding criminal warrant or if that individual has been convicted or charged with a felony. Or — and this has been one of the larger sticking points — if that individual is in the Chicago Police Department’s gang database. 

That gang database has been a really big issue because people say there’s a lack of transparency regarding how somebody gets put into that gang database. They’re not notified if they’re put on it, and then if somebody believes that they were incorrectly put in the gang database, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of recourse to take yourself off the database. So this could have pretty significant repercussions for somebody if they also happen to be undocumented.

4) How the Trust Act will impact Chicago

Yousef: My understanding from Andy Kang, the legal director for Advancing Justice-Chicago, is that basically the Trust Act will apply to only parts of the state that don’t have their own sanctuary policies. So we’ve got places — like Evanston, Skokie, Cook County — that have their own policies and so, who knows?

I think that the question is still open. Once the governor signs the Trust Act, will that propel further changes to the city’s sanctuary policy? We just don’t know. 

But I think that there’s also this interesting tension building where there’s an image that Chicago has, and that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has, on the national stage of fighting for immigrants when there is a significant portion of the immigrant activist community in Chicago that says, “He’s not standing with us at all.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click the “play” button to hear the entire segment, which was produced by Carrie Shepherd. Web story written by Justin Bull.

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