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Illinois Trust Act to Protect Immigrants

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on March 07, 2017

Although tension continues to build as an increasing number of communities reject President Trump’s anti-immigration agenda, lawmakers in Illinois remain dedicated to protecting immigrants. And individuals and families who are unauthorized immigrants in Illinois may no longer need to be afraid to leave their homes if those who support the Illinois Trust Act have anything to say about it.

What Is The Illinois Trust Act?

The Illinois Trust Act is designed to set constitutional limits on what is expected of local police in the enforcement of immigration policies, enhance and encourage trust between immigrants and law enforcement officials, and provide specific safe zones for undocumented individuals and their families. If passed, the legislation will:

  • Prohibit local and state law enforcement officials from conducting searches or detaining undocumented immigrants based solely upon their immigration status, citizenship or warrants that are not court ordered.
  • Bar the use of private prisons in Illinois to detain undocumented immigrants.
  • Provide safe zones at schools, hospitals and other medical facilities, courts and other property that is operated by the secretary of state. In these safe zones, federal officials would be prohibited from making arrests without valid criminal warrants.
  • Prohibit local and state law enforcement agencies from participating in discriminatory federal registries based on religion, race, national origin or other protected classes.

Illinois Trust Act: Impact on Public Safety

The Trump Administration’s recent crackdown on immigration and future plans to intensify deportation measures have led to significant threats to public safety. Although the agenda is intended to remove dangerous criminals from the streets, it is actually interfering with their capture.

Crime Reporting and Testimony

According to authorities all over the nation, undocumented immigrants are now refusing to report crimes or provide testimony in criminal cases because they live in fear of deportation. Reports by unauthorized individuals of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent incidents have significantly decreased in recent months. When there are no witnesses or victims to report crimes or testify against offenders, perpetrators are never prosecuted. They remain free to repeatedly commit criminal acts, and America’s streets become prime breeding grounds for danger and destruction.

Illinois law enforcement officials have taken pride over the years in maintaining trust in their local communities so that victims and witnesses feel comfortable reporting crimes and testifying in court. It is hoped that the Illinois Trust Act will help restore the trust that has been damaged so immigrants once again feel confident communicating with police.

Limited Resources

Most state and local law enforcement agencies are already strapped for resources to enforce laws, protect victims and incarcerate criminals. By deputizing local police to carry out immigration enforcement and asking private jails to bear the costs and responsibilities associated with housing undocumented immigrants, local resources are stretched even further. When officers are spending their time pursuing and arresting immigrants based solely on their immigration status, they cannot focus on the more serious crimes that put innocent people’s lives and property in danger.

Sanctuary for Undocumented Immigrants

For years, sanctuary cities like Chicago have declined to cooperate with immigration officials. Police won’t ask questions about the immigration status of individuals, they won’t share information with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, and they will not detain undocumented immigrants solely based on immigration law violations. Unfortunately, many immigrants continue to avoid ever leaving their homes for fear of deportation. Children often do not attend school, the injured or sick do not seek medical treatment, and individuals refrain from going to court.

Under the Illinois Trust Act, these individuals would be protected from federal immigration agents when attending school, receiving care at medical facilities, appearing for court or visiting other properties operated by the Illinois Secretary of State. In fact, the Act would prohibit ICE agents from making any arrests on these types of premises without a criminal warrant.

How the Illinois Trust Act Could Impact the local Economy

In Illinois, undocumented immigrants make up approximately 4 percent of the state’s population. Additionally, they represent about 7.8 percent of entrepreneurs in the state. In 2014, these individuals earned around $7.8 billion and paid about $916 million in local, state and federal taxes. Many working immigrants fill positions in manufacturing, construction and hospitality. Implementing the Illinois Trust Act will help these people feel more confident about maintaining or improving their careers, paying taxes and helping to improve the Illinois economy.

What the Illinois Trust Act Does NOT Do

  • The legislation will not bar local or state police from conducting criminal investigations, serving valid criminal warrants or making arrests that are not based solely on immigration status.
  • Local and state police will not be prohibited from working with immigration officials when ICE produces court-ordered warrants.
  • The Act will not prevent federal immigration agents from operating in Illinois. It will simply regulate their operations in safety zones.