Community reacts to state immigration bill: ‘[It] will make us feel more protected’


Nancy Stone | Chicago Tribune

Gov. Bruce Rauner gives a thumbs up after giving his first speech as governor on Monday Jan. 12, 2015 at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Ill. (Nancy Stone | Chicago Tribune)

By Francois Gatimu

Gov. Bruce Rauner will sign a bill into law Monday that prevents local law enforcement officials from detaining undocumented immigrants solely because of their immigration status, his office announced last week.

Many in the southern Illinois community are calling this legislation — the Trust Act — a step in the right direction for immigrants worried their lives in the U.S. may be uprooted by federal immigration policies.

The university had 20 students protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last year. The DACA program was launched in 2012 following an executive order issued by President Barack Obama to protect students who were brought into the country before reaching age 16.


Several DACA students are still on campus, and some said they will feel comforted by the governor signing the Trust Act during a time when President Donald Trump’s administration seeks to curb illegal immigration and build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

“This current administration has intensified fears of being detained and deported among Latinos,” said Oneida Vargas, a junior from Chicago studying political science.

Oneida, a DACA recipient whose parents are undocumented, said she sees the Trust Act as a step towards quelling those fears.

“My parents are at risk — the Trust Act will make us feel more protected,” she said.

Ana Maria Hernandez, a senior from Chicago studying social work whose parents are also undocumented, said she is hopeful the law will ease the charged political climate over immigration in Illinois.

“I’m grateful that Governor Rauner is doing something on the the state level,” Hernandez said. “That’s more than the federal government has done.”

The Trust Act comes as the Trump administration has started to increase its efforts to change federal immigration processes. President Donald Trump announced his support in early August for a merit-based immigration bill that would screen visa applicants using a point system.


This Republican-backed proposal — the RAISE Act — would take into account each person’s age, English-speaking ability, English ability, education, investments and whether the person has an Olympic medal or Nobel Prize.

Last week, the administration also began working with sheriffs from around the country on a plan to move undocumented immigrants from local jails into federal detention.

Reagan Gavin | @RGavin_DE

Becca Tally, the co-chair of the Southern Illinois Immigrant Rights Project, said that means anyone who is undocumented can be considered eligible for detention and deportation even if they have no criminal record.

Hernandez said some undocumented parents have been signing over their power-of-attorney to their eldest children in response to Trump’s actions, but her family avoids talking about it.

“It makes the possibility of separation a reality,” Hernandez said. “I would have to take care of my 12-year-old sister — that’s something I don’t like thinking about.”

Tally said two-thirds of undocumented immigrants in southern Illinois have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more, and about 70 percent have a family member who is a legal permanent resident or citizen.

“Detentions could tear families apart and devastate communities,” Tally said.

Tally said her project has spearheaded resolutions to ensure safety for undocumented immigrants in Jackson County. One passed by the Carbondale City Council in April declared the city a “safe and welcoming community” for all residents, regardless of religion, ethnicity or immigration status.

Immigration attorney Diane Speir of Murphysboro said historically, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement has prepared their own detainers, which are not judge warrants.

“They would tell the Jackson County jail to hold a person if they think that the person is undocumented, even without probable cause,” Speir said.

With the Trust Act, local officials will be able to opt out of those detainers, she said.

“We will not honor ICE detainers unless their warrants are issued by judges,” Speir said.

Speir said the Trust Act will make undocumented immigrants without criminal histories less worried about interacting with police. Under the current law, Speir said many immigrants are less likely to seek help when they are victims of a crime because they fear being turned in to immigration enforcement officers.

Vargas agreed, and said she hopes the new legislation will mark the end to “racial profiling” of Latinos in Illinois.

“After I turned 16, the fear of getting pulled over and being deported was constantly present,” Vargas said. “Now we know [local police] won’t be collaborating with ICE anymore to deport us.”  

Staff writer Francois Gatimu can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @frankDE28.

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