CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday signed into law one bill that would protect immigrants who are in the country illegally from being detained solely because of their immigration status and another that would automatically register many Illinoisans to vote.
The Republican governor's approval of the controversial immigration legislation marks a victory for immigrant advocates and a defeat for the more conservative members of his party, who had lobbied against it.
Known as the Trust Act, the new law would prohibit state and local police in Illinois from arresting or detaining a person solely because of their immigration status, or based on a federal immigration detainer. The law would, however, allow law enforcement officials to hold someone if a judge has issued a warrant.
"This was not an easy bill to pass, let's be clear," Rauner said, praising the bill as "a very reasonable, decent outcome."
He said he had sought out the opinion of law enforcement as he was contemplating whether to sign or veto the bill.
"I asked them, should I sign this bill, should I not sign this bill?" Rauner said. "They all said to me, governor, this is a reasonable compromise, it will help us do our jobs better, it will help us keep our communities safer."
Rauner entered a bill signing ceremony at Mi Tierra restaurant in Little Village to cheers from at least 200 supporters of the measure. Outside, an opponent carried a sign that said, "Illinois victim families say no sanctuary state."
Last week, state Sen. Kyle McCarter, a Republican from Lebanon outside St. Louis, said last week that if Rauner did not veto the measure, "this could be the last straw" for Downstate voters who have backed the governor.
Before the governor inked his signature to the bill, Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, a fluent Spanish speaker, kicked off the speeches with remarks in both English and Spanish in which she insisted that, "contrary to popular belief, this bill does not turn Illinois into a sanctuary state." Instead, she said, "it will help us keep violent criminals behind bars."
Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz said the legislation "reinforces local, county, state ability to work with the federal government and our federal partners to protect the neighborhood." He and others said that the legislation will allow immigrants to reach out to local law enforcement without fear of being punished for their immigration status.
Earlier Monday, Rauner signed the voter registration bill, which would add Illinoisans to the voting rolls when they get or renew a driver's license. He vetoed a similar plan last year, but this time Democrats made changes to try to assuage some of the governor's concerns.