In August 2017, Governor Bruce Rauner signed the Illinois TRUST Act, which is the strongest state-level bulwark against profiling by immigration officials yet passed into law as of this writing. It also codifies limited cooperation with U.S. immigration agencies as state policy, at least in terms of honoring detainers issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While this grants immigrants protection, it also drags the state into a potential fight with the U.S. Justice Department, which could have consequences.
The main crux of the Justice Department’s objections is that they believe the Act appears to “restrict the sending of information regarding immigration status.” While states have a reasonable degree of latitude in setting their own immigration rules, they must, of course, comply with federal law. However, the law regarding complying with ICE detainers is not cut and dried. While law enforcement agencies must comply with a warrant or with an in-person request to hand over a person in most circumstances, an ICE detainer is a mere request to law enforcement.
Essentially, a detainer is a request made by ICE or another immigration agency to hold an undocumented immigrant if arrested, even if the alleged offense has nothing to do with immigration status. The TRUST Act prohibits law enforcement stopping or holding anyone based solely on immigration status or suspicion of undocumented status, which is taken by the Justice Department as somehow recalcitrant, as a refusal to honor federal law despite such a position being on shaky legal ground.
There are multiple positives to the TRUST Act being signed into law; perhaps the most important is that it ensures options for immigrants who are victims of crimes, which boosts trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community. Multiple research papers have been authored on the fact that immigrant crime victims are often given subpar treatment or lesser attempts at justice because of their status, or lack thereof, and when assurances are given to allow the undocumented to come forward as witnesses, the crime rate drops. If you are victimized, you may not be arrested and deported solely because you reported a crime.
The main objection voiced by the Department of Justice is that the TRUST Act somehow restricts local law enforcement from communicating with ICE, but in reality that is simply not the case. The only two actions restricted by the TRUST Act are detaining people on the basis of immigration status, and complying with immigration detainers. Any other valid federal warrant or request from federal authorities must still be addressed promptly and completely, which means that the TRUST Act will not shield those who are undocumented if they have committed actual crimes. The Department of Justice is actually downplaying this reality somewhat, for whatever reason, but it is important for the immigrant community to be aware.
Seek Experienced Legal Assistance
The TRUST Act protects immigrants who are already in Illinois, but if you have questions about someone coming in, or you believe your rights under the Act have been violated, it may be a good idea to speak with an attorney. The dedicated Chicago immigration lawyers at Mevorah Law Offices LLC are happy to sit down with you and try to offer guidance on your situation. Call us today to set up a free consultation.
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