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Hearing set on measure to expand immigration safe zones in Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – A measure that requires the attorney general to put in place a model policy dealing with immigration enforcement is before the Illinois House after recent passage in the Senate.

harmon donState Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, said the bill would create safe zones in Illinois.

A policy would have to be put in place by April 1, 2019, and would limit assistance with immigration enforcement “to the fullest extent permissible at locations” including state-funded schools, state-funded medical treatment and health care facilities, public libraries, facilities operated by the secretary of state and state courts.

Senate Bill 35 passed the Senate 31-16 and arrived this month in the House. A Human Services Committee hearing has been set for May 16.

The safe zones were in the original version of the Trust Act that passed the Senate but were amended in the House and not in the final version signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner last year.

“I represent a diverse district that includes immigrant families who make invaluable contributions to their community,” Harmon (shown) said. “I want my constituents to feel safe when they do routine things like visit the doctor or take their children to school, not fear that they’ll be treated like criminals.”

A 2014 study by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights found that roughly 68 percent of undocumented immigrants participate in the labor force in Illinois, a higher rate than that of the general public (66 percent).

According to a 2011 memorandum, it is the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s official policy to avoid enforcement activities at “sensitive locations” like schools, day cares, medical facilities and courthouses. This guidance is nonbinding, however, and the Illinois Supreme Court has recorded numerous arrests of immigrants at courthouses in the past year.

“I believe the current political climate has left immigrants feeling horribly vulnerable,” Harmon said. “I hope this legislation gives them a sense of security in the state they call home.”

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