Rauner calls immigration bill ‘very reasonable’


Ryan Michalesko

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks with members of the media Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, following his visit to Carbondale High School’s Rebound program. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday he plans to announce “in the next couple days” whether he’ll sign a bill aimed at limiting the role of local law enforcement in federal efforts to detain and remove immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

Asked during a Friday morning radio appearance if he would sign the bill, Rauner said the legislation was supported by immigration advocates and the business community, “so it seems like a reasonable compromise.” He said he would be “making an announcement about that in the next couple days,” and that he was “very excited.” The governor did not, though, say whether he’d sign it.

“I think it seems very reasonable,” Rauner said on the WBEZ-FM 91.5 show “Morning Shift.”


Meanwhile, a public relations firm has sent out a news release indicating that retired Exelon Chairman John Rowe, who heads the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, a major supporter of the legislation, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin would be holding a midmorning news conference to talk about how the governor’s announcement relates to the federal DREAM Act. The proposal would grant permanent legal status to young people who arrived here before age 18, passed security checks, enrolled in college and met other criteria. A Rauner spokeswoman said Thursday that she was unaware of plans for an announcement.

The governor has until Aug. 28 to act on the measure. The bill’s backers say they’re concerned that actions against immigrants by the Trump administration and the governor’s shift to more conservative top staff members may have pushed him toward a veto.

Some advocates said they received assurances earlier this summer that Rauner would sign the bill. Rauner’s staff has said only that the measure remains “under review.” Rauner himself issued no guarantee of his signature in a Fox News interview last week.

“So, our staff is evaluating that bill right now,” Rauner said then. “In fact, we are meeting with law enforcement agencies and law enforcement leaders in the state to get their views on it. We’re going to evaluate it, and then we’ll make an announcement about how we’re going to deal with that.”

The measure, known as the Trust Act, is a product of efforts by a coalition of immigrant rights activists, religious organizations and top members of the state’s business community. The bill passed the General Assembly with mostly Democratic votes and also has the backing of several law enforcement officials.

The bill would prohibit state and local police in Illinois from arresting or detaining a person solely because of their immigration status, or based on a federal immigration detainer. However, law enforcement officials can hold someone if a judge has issued a warrant.

The legislation as passed was heavily diluted from an initial proposal that also would have created “safe zones” at schools, medical facilities, courts and driver’s license facilities where immigration agents would not be allowed to make arrests.


Rauner consistently has avoided directly responding to reporters’ questions about Chicago’s “sanctuary city” status, highlighted most recently in criticism raised by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions as well as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s efforts to sue the Justice Department to ensure the city would not be denied certain federal grants because of its declaration on immigration.

Instead, Rauner has said the nation as a whole should have a comprehensive immigration policy rather than having the country dotted by municipalities setting up their own rules and procedures.

Sponsoring Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, a Democrat from Hillside, said he hoped the governor would sign the bill and not bend to those in the Republican Party who’ve taken a hard-line stance on immigration.

“It definitely seems like there is this fear from Trump and Rauner to alienate their far right base,” Welch said. “I think that it’s extremely important that we send a message that Illinois is a welcoming state.

“Immigrants are critical to the success of the Illinois economy, let’s not scare people away from our state,” he added.

Responding to Rauner’s latest comments about listening to law enforcement, immigration rights activists released a letter from Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran and seven suburban police chiefs urging the governor to sign the measure, joining similar missives sent by business and faith leaders.

The law enforcement letter called the bill “a sensible policy to effectively devote our time and taxpayers’ money going after true threats to public safety and security and not wasting limited resources apprehending and removing immigrants who are merely seeking to work or reunite with family.”

The letter also said the measure should not be considered a “sanctuary” bill because it explicitly allows communications between local police and federal agents.

“Fears that law enforcement and immigration enforcement are one and the same have a chilling effect on reports of crime among minority communities,” the letter said. “None of us wants rapists or other criminals to get away with crime. Discouraging victims and witnesses of crime from coming forward makes our jobs harder and does not make you safer.”

Chicago Tribune’s Kim Geiger contributed.


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