The state of Illinois is a bit of a bellwether on immigration because there is an inherent divide in the state itself between the more conservative areas to the south, and the fairly liberal Chicagoland metropolis. In the past year, there has been quite a lot of debate, especially with the passage of the Illinois TRUST Act, which contains certain protections for undocumented immigrants. It can be easy to be confused as to what rights you have, and it is important not to make a wrong move.
The major piece of immigration-related legislation that was passed in 2018 is the Illinois TRUST Act, signed into law by Governor Rauner in August. There has been quite a lot of ink spilled regarding the Act, but it is important to understand what the actual law states and what it does not. For one, the Act does not hinder cooperation with federal law enforcement authorities, and is thus not a “sanctuary” act - but it does state that no one may be stopped by the police solely due to their immigration status. A sanctuary city is not the lawless den of criminals that some propaganda would describe it as - it merely means that the city’s law enforcement does not cooperate in handing people over to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) if they have not committed a crime.
The TRUST Act prohibits both state and local law enforcement from detaining people solely based on their immigration status. However, it also carries a prohibition on volunteering information to any “discriminatory federal registers” based on race, national origin or another defining characteristic. While this may seem inconsequential, it is, in fact, a strong statement of support for immigrants - this law prohibits Illinois ever complying with any request for population data if there is a concern over its use being discriminatory. For example, the much-maligned voter fraud commission mounted by the current administration requested extensive data on Illinois voters, allegedly for nefarious uses. While Illinois ultimately declined to provide any data not already publicly available, this law would require that they decline to do so every time it may come up.
While Illinois state laws are changing in a decidedly more humanitarian way, this does not mean that the state is somehow permanent safe territory if you are undocumented. Federal immigration law has not changed, and detention and deportation are likely if you are undocumented and are arrested by ICE. Illinois’ incoming governor and other officials are favorable to legalization or other stays of removal, but mere expression of hope does not outweigh federal regulations.
If you are detained by local law enforcement on the basis of your immigration status (or alleged immigration status) alone, it will be in violation of Illinois law, but the most important thing in that situation is to seek assistance in getting out of detention. You have the right to make a telephone call after being detained, so you will likely be able to reach out to an attorney, but it is critical to make it count.
While the picture for immigrants, especially undocumented people, is improving slowly in Illinois, it does not mean that you are not at risk. Contacting a dedicated Chicago immigration lawyer can help clarify what your rights and responsibilities are - and even if you are undocumented, you do have certain rights. Mevorah Law Offices, LLC has been assisting immigrants in all situations for years and is happy to try and assist you. Contact our offices today at 630-932-9100 for a free consultation.
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