Business pushes Rauner to sign bill to protect immigrants
Paperwork providing information to immigrants and others on what to do if confronted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers is available at the Latino Union workers center Tuesday, March 7, 2017, in Chicago. (Erin Hooley / Chicago Tribune)
For the second time this year, an influential group of Chicago-area business leaders is openly challenging the Trump administration’s tough anti-immigration policies.
But this time around, the more than 170 corporate CEOs, midsized-business owners, neighborhood entrepreneurs and investors are pressing Gov. Bruce Rauner to join their crusade.
This week, the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition sent a letter to Rauner urging him to sign the Illinois Trust Act, which recently was passed by the General Assembly. The bipartisan measure seeks to provide increased legal protections to immigrants.
Rauner should sign this bill into law, despite the possibility of political blowback or maybe a nasty tweet from President Donald Trump. It will boost the state’s economic fortunes, while enabling Illinois to chart a realistic approach to dealing with the complex issue of immigration, particularly its impact on labor and business.
"Rauner has a very interesting decision to make," says Scott Grams, executive director of the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association, which has 800 members statewide. "Illinois has an opportunity to become a real beacon on immigration."
The governor’s office says the Illinois Trust Act legislation is "under review" and Rauner is a believer in "comprehensive immigration reform."
By approving the bill, Rauner would make progress on the immigration front by providing more clarity and security to most everyone in this state touched by the issue.
At its core, the legislative measure sensibly prohibits local or state police from cooperating with federal authorities investigating immigrants unless they possess a court-issued criminal warrant, a basic constitutional right.
It also forbids local law enforcement from stopping, searching and arresting anyone based only on immigration or citizenship status. Federal agents still could catch and deport criminals in the country illegally, which is the appropriate course of action.
As important, the act would provide the majority of immigrants in the country illegally, and their families, the assurance of living and working in Illinois without having to continually look over their shoulders in dread.
Landscapers are among a host of local employers favoring the proposed Illinois Trust Act. Representatives of the area’s retail, hospitality, restaurants, health care, and agriculture businesses lined up to sign the letter to Rauner.
All are justifiably concerned about the repercussions of Trump’s pledge to mass-deport people who are living here illegally and tighten entry across U.S. borders.
That’s not a big surprise.
Anyone who buys, sells or uses the society’s most basic goods and services soon realizes how highly dependent our economy has become on immigrant labor.
Unfortunately, it’s getting increasingly difficult to recruit and retain immigrant workers amid a highly charged anti-immigrant environment. The "fear generated by increased immigration enforcement over the past five months has a negative impact," the coalition letter asserts.
This anxiety isn’t restricted to people who are not legally authorized to be here, but also affects people who are here legally, including children and young adults who are concerned about being profiled or picked up at random by law enforcement.
This week, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement reasserted the administration’s vow to track down people who are living here illegally, while asking Congress for more tax money to do the job.
"What’s going on now is making people afraid to go to work," says Carole Segal, co-founder of retailer Crate and Barrel and co-chair of the immigration coalition.
Among the other local business and civic leaders supporting the Illinois Trust Act: Susan Crown, founder of a namesake investment firm and member of the wealthy Crown family; Mike Englehart, CEO of Presence Health; Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern University; Mark Gordon, CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association; and William Kunkler, executive vice president of private equity firm CC Industries.
John Rowe, chairman emeritus for Exelon and co-chair of the coalition, and Glenn Tilton, ex-chairman of United Airlines, are also on board.
But some marquee employers haven’t pitched in, including McDonald’s. A coalition spokeswoman says the group continues to recruit corporate names and is reaching out to the fast-food giant and others.
Earlier this year, the coalition sent a letter to Trump urging him not to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Trump kept the plan, which basically allows nearly 750,000 young people who are children of immigrants in the country illegally to obtain work permits and remain in the country.
Yes, illegal immigration is a vexing, multidimensional dilemma. But it can’t simply be solved by mass deportation and disruption.
In backing the Illinois Trust Act, business leaders are calling for a rational, humane course of action toward immigration enforcement, even though it’s at odds with the president’s approach.
Illinois’ CEO should follow their lead and approve this plan.