Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation on Monday that would limit cooperation with federal immigration officials, angering members of his own party who say the law creates a "sanctuary state."
The Illinois TRUST Act -- a bill that was passed by the state’s General Assembly in May -- bans local law enforcement from stopping, arresting, searching or detaining anyone based solely on immigration status. More controversially, it bars local officials from detaining anyone solely on the basis of a federal immigration detainer, unless federal officials have a criminal warrant.
The governor’s office and other supporters say the law does not constitute a “sanctuary” policy; one provision makes clear that the TRUST Act does not prohibit communication between federal and local officials.
“Illinois has been welcoming of immigrants for a long time, and this bill will continue that tradition,” Rauner said in a statement Monday. “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.”
The governor’s office pointed to a decision made by an Illinois-based federal court that immigration detainer orders from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are illegal.
A spokesperson from Rauner’s office told Fox News that the law “coincides” with that ruling.
“The TRUST Act makes clear that Illinois will be a good partner with the federal government, and law enforcement officials will continue communicating with federal immigration and law enforcement officials,” Rauner’s spokesperson told Fox News.
But fellow Republicans are calling the bill another "sanctuary" measure -- the kind the Trump administration has been fighting in cities across the country.
Asked for comment about the new Illinois law on Monday, a Justice Department official was critical.
“As the Attorney General has said, when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe," DOJ spokesman Devin O'Malley told Fox News. "Failure to deport aliens who are convicted for criminal offenses puts whole communities at risk – especially immigrant communities in the very sanctuary jurisdictions that seek to protect the perpetrators.”
Several other states including California are considering sanctuary policies, but no other governor has enacted a statewide policy since Oregon in 1977.
“I said this could be the last straw, and every day I'm feeling it worse,” Republican state Sen. Kyle McCarter told The Chicago Tribune. “And this isn't just the 'right wing' that's angry. These are union members too, loyal union men trying to protect American jobs, and the last thing they need to see is a Republican governor making Illinois a sanctuary state.”
McCarter told the Tribune that by signing the “Sanctuary State thing,” Rauner is “complicating the message” Republicans can use in future elections.
Republican leadership in the Illinois legislature did not respond to Fox News' request for comment on Monday.
But an aide in Rauner’s office told Fox News that they “don’t believe this will make Illinois a sanctuary state.”
Rauner’s office said the new law will “improve connectivity” between immigrants and law enforcement and make Illinois “safer” for all residents.
Illinois State Police Director Leo P. Schmitz also said the law “does not prohibit” state and local law enforcement from working with federal law enforcement, and “does nothing to change law enforcement’s ability to arrest and detain individuals who commit criminal acts.”
Democrats cheered the new policy.
“Immigrants in our community should not have to feel unsafe when they go to work or take their children to school,” Illinois Democratic Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch, who was the primary sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
In an interview on Fox News’ “Special Report” earlier this month, Rauner said that the immigration system is “broken.”
“We have to put priority on keeping the people of America safe and making sure that we have laws that we enforce and that the laws are rational and enforced everywhere,” Rauner said. “Immigration in America is broken. We make illegal immigration in America easy, and we make legal immigration almost impossible.”
Rauner’s decision to sign the law comes just weeks after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for vowing to block federal grants to cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration agents.
“Chicago will not let our residents have their fundamental rights ... violated,” Emanuel said earlier this month.
The Justice Department fired back, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying that “no amount” of federal money will help a city that won’t help its own residents.
Advocates of tough immigration enforcement slammed the new Illinois law as “dangerous” on Monday, saying it creates the first “sanctuary state” since President Trump took office.
“We think it is a dangerous bill that puts public safety at risk in order to accommodate some very narrow political interests,” the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) told Fox News. “The governor was absolutely wrong to sign this bill.”
There are currently an estimated 200 to 608 local and state governments with some sort of sanctuary policy in place, though they vary. Some work with federal authorities on felony convictions while others only comply in civil investigations.
California and New York currently have pending legislation that would prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal authorities. Maryland’s legislature was debating a similar bill this year, but it failed in the House in April.