Illinois Safe Zones bill passes General Assembly, aims to provide line of defense for 500,000 Illinois immigrants

May 31, 2018

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SPRINGFIELD (May 31, 2018)--The Illinois House on Thursday passed Senate Bill 35, the Illinois Safe Zones Act, which would develop model policies to protect against ICE arrests at courthouses, schools, hospitals and other sensitive locations.

“The Illinois Safe Zones Act would help provide security in sensitive locations throughout Illinois for immigrant families,” said Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), chief sponsor of the bill. “This bill will make people feel safer in their everyday lives taking their children to school or the doctor. While every immigrant is now a target for deportation, this provides added safety in our communities. Our diverse immigrant history is what defines Illinois, and we need to make the state welcoming for everyone. I hope this bill provides some measure of security for our immigrant residents.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's official policy is to not conduct enforcement activities in “sensitive locations” such as school, preschools, daycares, and medical treatment facilities like emergency rooms, but the policy is non-binding. Enforcement activities include arrests, interviews, searches or surveillance.

Senate Bill 35 passed the Senate 31-16 on May 2, 2018, and the House with a vote of 62-53 on May 30, 2018.

“In my district, we’ve had children coming to school in complete distress, asking if they or their families will be deported,” said Rep. Welch. “Can you imagine the emotional harm it causes a family to live in fear?”

If enacted, the bill would direct the Attorney General’s Office to create guidelines for how state-funded spaces and law enforcement agents can limit assistance to immigration agents, while still complying with state and federal law. The guidelines would be published by the Attorney General by April 1, 2019. The full list of safe spaces include state-funded schools, day care centers and preschools, hospitals, health clinics, emergency and urgent care facilities, nursing homes, group homes for the disabled and mental health facilities, libraries, facilities operated by the Secretary of State, and courthouses.

“Studies have shown that the stress that comes with immigration raids and arrests within a family can affect the behavioral health of children,” said Lawrence Benito, Executive Director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, a convening organization of the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois, the broad coalition working for the passage of this bill. “We are committed to working for the health and safety of immigrants in Illinois, and this bill is one piece of the puzzle in this tumultuous political climate.”

“This policy is critical at a time when ICE is terrorizing our community and arresting people in sensitive locations such as patients from hospitals and parents dropping their children off at school,” said Mony-Ruiz Velasco, Executive Director of PASO - West Suburban Action Project. “Over half a million Illinois residents are less safe because of these policies. SB 35 ensures our communities have meaningful access to schools, hospitals and courthouses without fearing deportation.”

SB 35 is now awaiting the signature of Governor Rauner.

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