The Trump administration has led a public crackdown on immigration, marked by raids in courthouses, plans for a growing army of federal agents and even a state legislative threat to jail local law enforcement officials who don’t cooperate.
This crackdown is spreading fear throughout immigrant families and their communities from the Rio Grande Valley in Southern Texas to the streets of Chicago. But some communities, cities and states are responding by crafting measures that would call on local law enforcement to stay out of federal immigration enforcement.
Earlier in April, Illinois became one of the latest to join the effort. The state Senate Executive Committee approved legislation that would bar local law enforcement from immigration enforcement, unless there is a warrant and offer other protections to residents, according to a summary from the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois.
A clear response to the new administration’s immigration moves, the measure, known as the TRUST Act, also would prevent private prisons from being used to hold people for immigration issues, the summary said. In addition, federal agents would not be allowed to enter schools and health facilities that receive state support without a warrant.
Overall, the measure is designed to alleviate fear that has followed the stream of executive orders, budget proposals and other ideas on immigration that have been coming from the White House.
“In Illinois, rather than demonizing immigrants, we are working to pass practical, helpful laws to make our communities safer for everyone,” Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), one of the organizations leading the push for the bill, said in a statement.
The nation’s new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has told local leaders of the importance of supporting federal efforts to halt undocumented immigration and raising the possibility they could jeopardize their access to $4.1 billion in grant money.
“I strongly urge our nation’s states and cities and counties to consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to enforce our immigration laws, and to rethink these policies,” Sessions said last month.
Though enforcement of immigration law is a responsibility of the U.S. government, some cities and counties have entered into agreements to cooperate with federal authorities with policing, detention and sharing of information.
Advocates say those local-federal agreements erode community trust in police officers and sheriff deputies, as residents are reluctant to report crimes, including domestic violence assaults. Some cities, such as San Francisco, already bar such local-federal enforcement agreements on immigration.
The full Illinois state Senate could vote on the TRUST Act after it returns from recess later in April, according to ICIRR spokeswoman Sophie Vodvarka, though the bill’s future in the state House is cloudier.
Illinois is only the latest state to work on new protections for immigrant families. A bill moving through the California state Legislature would make it the first sanctuary state in the country. In Illinois, supporters didn’t use the word sanctuary, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Instead, Illinois State Sen. Daniel Biss said the bill is designed to prevent “deputizing” local law enforcement to do work they don’t have the resources or training to tackle.
“We should not allow children, parents, the elderly and the infirmed to retreat into the shadows because they are terrified that they could be detained and deported by immigration authorities anytime they or their loved ones step out of their homes to go to school or to a clinic,” Bliss, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
“It also says Illinois does not condone any effort to catalog human beings based on their race, religion or nation of origin.”
Some states are embracing the Trump administration’s crackdown. In Texas, legislation that says some local sheriffs and police officers could be jailed for not enforcing certain federal immigration laws is moving quickly through the state Legislature, according to The Associated Press.
Paul Nyhan is the senior writer for Equal Voice News, which is published by Marguerite Casey Foundation. All original Equal Voice News content – articles, graphics and videos – can be reproduced for free, as long as proper credit and a link to our homepage are included. For more information on housing, employment and other issues important to families, visit the Equal Voice National Family Platform. This report includes information from The Associated Press.