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Illinois Senate passes bill strengthening legal protection for immigrants

Illinois Senate passes bill strengthening legal protection for immigrants

By TIM KIRSININKAS
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed a bill Friday which would strengthen legal protections for immigrants and require the closure of immigrant detention centers in the state.

Senate Bill 667, known as the Illinois Way Forward Act, would amend the Illinois Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools, or TRUST, Act, which took effect in 2017.

The bill would prevent state and local law enforcement agencies from collaborating with federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or from otherwise inquiring about an individual’s immigration status unless presented with a federal warrant.

The bill was introduced by Chicago Democrat Omar Aquino.

“(The bill) aims to limit police collaboration with immigration agencies, ensure that immigrant families in Illinois are able to work with law enforcement …and hold agencies accountable if they violate state law,” Aquino said Friday on the Senate floor.

Aquino said the bill would also “finish the job” of ending ICE detention in Illinois, which was barred through the Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act passed in 2019.

Under SB 667, all existing immigrant detention centers in the state would be required to close by Jan. 1, 2022. The bill would also allow the state attorney general’s office to investigate violations of the TRUST Act and enforce compliance through local courts.

The bill would not prevent law enforcement agencies from investigating or detaining individuals in violation of criminal law.

Sen. Jil Tracy, a Quincy Republican, raised concerns over law enforcement’s opposition to the bill, saying it would “tie the hands” of officers when conducting criminal investigations. The bill is opposed by the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and Fraternal Order of Police.

“I think the first TRUST Act had a place but this ties law enforcement’s hands within the state, such that they are effectively not able to do their duties,” Tracy said.

Aquino responded that nothing in the bill bars law enforcement from carrying out an investigation due to criminal violations.

“In case of the question of those that have committed a criminal offense, would local law enforcement be able to continue the investigation and even charge these folks? The answer is absolutely,” he added.

Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, said the bill would be important in building trust between law enforcement and the state’s immigrant community.

Villanueva said immigrants, regardless of citizenship status, are often hesitant to call law enforcement for help or to cooperate in investigations due to fears that they may be detained.

“We need to continue to build trust between law enforcement and all of our communities, including communities that have had good reasons not to trust the police,” Villanueva said. “This bill will further remove barriers from such trust by making clear that our local police departments and sheriffs should not get involved in civil immigration enforcement.”

The bill passed the Senate Friday, 36-19, and will now be sent to the House for consideration.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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