Pritzker signs immigrant protection in rebuff to Trump
‘He’s a disgrace,’ says governor
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — Gov. Pritzker signed a bill into law Wednesday protecting immigrants from “blackmail” by landlords in what he clearly intended as a rebuff to President Trump.
“As our xenophobic president stokes a climate of fear,” Pritzker said, “we will not stand by in silence.”
In a signing ceremony at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, Pritzker approved a law making it illegal for a landlord to threaten a tenant with eviction over immigration status or to threaten to inform federal agents about a tenant’s status as an undocumented immigrant.
“Where you were born has absolutely nothing to do with your ability to pay rent on time, which is what the relationship between a landlord and tenant should really be about,” Pritzker said.
“This is essentially a form of blackmail,” said state Sen. Cristina Castro of Elgin, lead sponsor of the bill. “Quite frankly, it’s a shame that this sort of thing even needs to be legislated against.”
“This is essentially a form of blackmail. Quite frankly, it’s a shame that this sort of thing even needs to be legislated against.”
Sen. Cristina Castro (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
Castro said she passed an identical bill through the General Assembly last year only to see it vetoed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner, “who didn’t feel that the rights of immigrants was something the state had to defend.”
State Rep. Aaron Ortiz of Chicago called Rauner “heartless” for vetoing the bill.
Pritzker said the veto “created more anxiety among our immigrant communities,” and that he was signing the bill in the face of “the racist and xenophobic attacks from the White House.”
“The current administration in Washington is openly hostile to immigrant communities, and as a result fear runs rampant in those communities,” Castro said.
According to Castro, evidence of landlords intimidating tenants in her Chicago district is largely anecdotal, as no one knows how many tenants were intimidated from filing complaints on property conditions and remained silent about it. She said complaints on what now amounts to violations of the state’s Human Rights Act would be handled by the Human Rights Commission, with punishments including paying damages, a civil penalty of $2,000 paid to the tenants, and legal costs.
Pritzker said he was signing the bill — in addition to more than a dozen other pieces of legislation on immigrants passed this year by the General Assembly — to provide “a little more relief in these tumultuous times.”
“Never has it been more necessary,” said Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum.
The signing ceremony took place as news broke that Trump was moving to extend the permissible period immigrant families with children can de detained, beyond the 20 days agreed upon in a court case.
“It’s unconscionable,” Pritzker said. “It’s my job to protect everybody who lives here (in Illinois), whether they’re documented, undocumented, whoever they are.”
Pritzker also responded to Trump’s most recent outrage questioning the “loyalty” of Jewish voters, which The New York Times called “an anti-Semitic trope.” Congress passed a resolution against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and homophobia earlier this year in the wake of a controversy in which U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota questioned the “allegiance” of Jewish voters and the Jewish lobby in America. She later said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to really learn how my words make people feel and have taken every single opportunity I've gotten to make sure that people understood that I apologize for it.”
Trump has issued no such apology, in fact repeating the “loyalty” remarks two days in a row.
If the charge of “dual loyalty” still seems vague, consider the parallels in how U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey questioned the loyalty of future President John Kennedy as a Catholic while on the campaign trail in West Virginia in 1960 — a charge Kennedy successfully fought by calling out its intolerance.
Pointing out that he had helped build the Holocaust Museum, Pritzker lashed out at Trump Wednesday.
“He’s a disgrace,” Pritzker said. He called Trump’s behavior “reminiscent of times that I think we would all call abhorrent in the history of the world.”
Pritzker was incredulous. “I cannot believe it,” he said, “it is truly shocking — although what are we, two and a half years into this administration, I suppose we shouldn’t be shocked now — but it is truly shocking to me that we have someone in the White House who expresses views like that.”