Rauner flip-flops on immigration, groups charge
The governor's vetoes late Friday drew flak from immigration groups and legislators
By Ted Cox
Immigration groups are charging the governor with political flip-flopping after three vetoes on legislation issued late Friday.
Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed three bills that would have protected undocumented immigrants who've suffered domestic violence, protected them from arrest at courthouses, schools, and hospitals, and prevented landlords from evicting or threatening tenants based on their immigration status.
Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, pointed out that only a year ago Rauner signed the Trust Act, which barred state and local law enforcement from arresting and holding individuals based on their immigration status.
“The General Assembly passed five bills to protect immigrant communities across Illinois and make Illinois the most welcoming state in the nation,” Tsao said Friday in a statement. “A year ago, Gov. Rauner signed the Trust Act, yet today he announces vetoes for three bills that would make our state more welcoming. One moment he is addressing the needs of immigrant communities, and the next, he is using hateful anti-immigrant rhetoric to rationalize rejecting bills that are vital to our communities. Can immigrants really trust this governor?”
Rauner announced the vetoes at the end of the business day on Friday. He argued that the first bill, Senate Bill 34, "imposes problematic mandates and timelines" on police dealing with undocumented immigrants who've been victims of crimes or even human trafficking. He said protecting undocumented immigrants at schools and the like violated federal law requiring that they be reported. He cited the same federal law in vetoing the proposed restrictions on landlords.
"It is the policy of this administration to comply with both the letter and spirit of that law," Rauner said in a statement, "and this legislation demonstrates an intent to undermine the spirit of federal immigration law by guiding and encouraging government entities to restrict assistance to federal authorities.
"Illinois continues to be a welcoming state for all and continuously strives to protect the rights of all residents," Rauner added. "However, we must comply with federal law."
Rauner might have signed the Trust Act a year ago, but more recently he has embraced the hardline approach of President Trump on immigration.
"I am adamantly against illegal immigration," he said at a campaign appearance at the State Fair this month. "We are not a sanctuary state, and we'll never be one."
“His vetoes lay bare their lack of transparency and disregard for immigrant communities, and put the safety of thousands of Illinois residents in danger,” said Mony Ruiz-Velasco, executive director of PASO — West Suburban Action Project.
Sponsors of the other bills said the governor was missing an opportunity to soothe anxieties in immigrant communities.
"The Safe Zones Act addresses real fears in immigrant communities about whether their families can go to school, seek medical treatment, and even go to court,” said state Rep. Chris Welch, of Westchester. “By vetoing this bill, Gov. Rauner is irresponsibly putting these families and their children at serious risk."
State Rep. Theresa Mah of Chicago said Hispanics were prone to being threatened by landlords. "This bill seeks to address incidents throughout the state of landlords threatening Latino and other minority tenants,” she said. “This bill was the result of careful negotiations among immigrant and housing advocates and realtor groups. I cannot fathom why the governor would veto it."
Immigration groups applauded two other bills signed into law by Rauner. One offers new protections to so-called Dreamers under the national Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. The other bars "state and local agencies from creating or participating in the creation of unconstitutional or illegal registries," including those based on religion or national origin.
Rauner made it clear these bills did not clash with federal immigration laws, saying, "The nation and the state of Illinois should be immigrant-friendly within the bounds of federal immigration law," but adding, "No state law should require, authorize, or encourage resistance to or evasion of federal agencies’ lawful efforts to enforce federal statutes."
Andy Kang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Chicago, called the bill signings "victories for our communities, and a recognition of our power." But he added, "In this moment where new anti-immigrant policies come from the White House every day, we need our governor to be with us 100 percent of the time, and to not turn his back on us when it’s politically convenient."