Latino Caucus lays out undocumented immigrant protection agenda

By Sarah Mansur 
Capitol News Illinois

Led by Rep. Aaron Ortiz, D-Chicago, members of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus speak at a news conference Thursday, May 27 at the Illinois State Capitol to unveil their legislative agenda for the remainder of the session. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Jerry Nowicki)

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus laid out a policy agenda Thursday that includes bills to strengthen protections for immigrants among several other measures.

One of the proposals, Senate Bill 225, would prohibit the Illinois Secretary of State from sharing facial recognition data with local, state or federal law enforcement agencies, if they’re trying to enforce federal immigration law.

SB 225, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, passed out of the House, 65-47, on Thursday after a brief debate. It will head to the Senate for concurrence after being amended in the House.

Gonzalez said he filed an amendment that would exclude the law from applying to requests from law enforcement agencies or other governmental entities when the purpose of the request relates to criminal activity other than immigration law violations.

Rep. Jeff Keicher, a Sycamore Republican, said the amendment was added to address the type of situation, for example, where a young person is sexually abused by an adult who is a foreign national.

“We drew a caveat and an exclusion in this (bill) so that if immigration authorities are prosecuting a criminal offense, they will have access to the social security imaging data,” he said.

The House also passed Senate Bill 2665, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Aaron Ortiz, which would reinstate the Illinois Immigrant Impact Task Force, which expired in January 2021. It passed 79-35.

The 27-member task force would examine how Illinois is proactively helping immigrant communities, what the state can do going forward to improve relations between the state and immigrant communities, the impact of COVID-19 on immigrant communities, and the practices and procedures of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the state, among other issues.

Ortiz said the task force is needed because “immigrant communities have seen disproportionately high rates of infection during the COVID pandemic and little relief from the state.”

“Immigrant communities face systemic barriers to accessing state resources, including language barriers,” he said.

Another proposal on the Latino Caucus’ agenda, Senate Bill 667, would strengthen the TRUST Act, or “Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools,” which took effect in 2017.

The TRUST Act prohibits state and local law enforcement officials from detaining “any individual solely on the basis of any immigration detainer or nonjudicial immigration warrant.”

SB 667 would empower the state attorney general’s office to investigate violations of the TRUST Act and enforce compliance through local courts.

Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, a Cicero Democrat who sponsored the bill, said changes to the TRUST Act are necessary because state and local law enforcement continue to assist federal law enforcement in locating and detaining undocumented individuals.

“(Immigration and Customs Enforcement) relies on local law enforcement to help funnel people into its detention centers, and state law enforcement agencies continue to assist ICE to identify, arrest and detain people in our communities,” she said at a news conference Thursday. “Families continue to be afraid to take their children to school, seek medical attention, attend court hearings, seek public services or seek police protection.”

In 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed two separate lawsuits against the sheriff’s offices in Ogle and Stephenson counties on behalf of individuals who were stopped and arrested for minor traffic violations. Those lawsuits are still pending.

After the individuals posted a cash bond, officers in each of the sheriff’s offices detained them until ICE officials picked them up, according to the ACLU of Illinois.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a legal brief last February in federal court defending the constitutionality of the TRUST Act in the lawsuit against the Stephenson County Sheriff’s Office.

He also filed another court document last January in support of a lawsuit seeking to block federal agents from making civil immigration arrests inside and around state courthouses.

Raoul said he’s not familiar with the language in SB 667 and had not discussed the bill directly with members of the Latino Caucus.

“I think the aim of the TRUST Act is for us to utilize law enforcement, local law enforcement resources, for local law enforcement and to allow the federal immigration services to use federal resources for federal immigration resources,” Raoul said Thursday at an unrelated news conference.

“We have enough violent crime, we have these crimes that we’re here to talk about today, with regards to internet crimes against children,” he added. “We need every bit of resources we have to protect the children of the state of Illinois from these horrific crimes.”

SB 667 had not yet been taken up by either the House or Senate as of Thursday afternoon.