The State of Illinois has taken steps to push back on the Trump Administration’s efforts to force local law enforcement into doing the job of federal immigration enforcement officers. Governor Rauner signed legislation in August that would limit local and state police cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while the City of Chicago filed suit against the federal government over the same issue.
The Illinois TRUST Act, signed by Governor Rauner in August restricts local law enforcement from collaborating with ICE to detain anyone unless there is a judicial warrant, and disallows local police from stopping, searching or arresting anyone based on their immigration or citizenship status. The bill, which had been in the works for over two years, was the subject of a great deal of debate and compromise. In response to critics who call Illinois a “sanctuary state,” the Governor noted:
Illinois has been welcoming of immigrants for a long time, and this bill will continue that tradition. 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.
Trump has long-threatened to punish locals who law enforcement does not do the work of federal enforcement officers. Soon after his inauguration, Trump released an executive order on interior enforcement that partially focused on forcing local officers to work with federal immigration agents in the identification, detention, and deportation of immigrants.
The order also directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure that jurisdictions refusing to cooperate with immigration enforcement lose federal grant funding.
While the DOJ later acknowledged there was only so far they could go with that threat, they announced in July that in order to be eligible for some grant programs cities and states would have to agree to give DHS full access to its police stations and jails and to provide 48 hours’ notice before releasing people of interest to immigration agents.
Following the announcement, the City of Chicago filed a lawsuit challenging the new conditions and the threat to cut off certain federal funds to the city.
The irony is that communities with sanctuary policies are in compliance with federal law and do not conceal or shelter unauthorized immigrants from detection, deportation or prosecution for criminal activities. The police can enforce all criminal laws against immigrants who commit crimes.
In addition, the cities with these policies are actually safer than those without. In fact, a 2017 report that notes, sanctuary counties have lower crime rates and higher economic indicators than non-sanctuary counties.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city will stand firm on its policy because it does not want to “fracture residents’ trust of the police and discourage those here without authorization from reporting crimes or cooperating as witnesses, making the streets more dangerous.”
The battle between the Trump Administration and states and localities over immigration enforcement is just beginning. In the coming months there is likely to be additional litigation and attempts to cut off funding.
This is a misdirected effort by the federal government who should allow local governments to employ their local law enforcement resources as they see fit in order to keep their communities safe.