Pierog: Sanctuary status for Kane County already decided by state law

A tide of concern about recent migrant busing into Kane County reached its apex this week as residents packed a county board meeting to overflow status with calls to reject any move toward a formal sanctuary county proclamation.

Sanctuary cities are viewed as being welcoming to migrants, including those who make unauthorized border crossings. After waiting two hours to speak, County Board Chair Corinne Pierog told them they were too late.

Kane County already is a sanctuary county, Pierog said. She pointed to state legislation approved in 2017 and signed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“The Trust Act made 102 counties in the state of Illinois what you would consider a sanctuary county,” Pierog told the raucous audience. “You are asking if I’m advocating Kane County be a sanctuary county? That was already done by a Republican governor. I cannot undo state law.”

Despite multiple Republican social media posts indicating a push for a county-level proclamation declaring Kane a sanctuary county, there was no scheduled discussion or vote on that topic at this week’s county board meeting. Earlier, the county board voted down attempts to debate taking any formal stance on immigration or migrant busing.

None of the eight Republicans on the county board responded to Pierog’s comments. But the Trust Act has been a target for more conservative GOP members since shortly after its passage.

The act makes it illegal for state, county or municipal law enforcement to ask anyone about immigration status or detain anyone solely based on immigration status, including in civil immigration cases involving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

At the time, Rauner said he signed the legislation to ensure undocumented immigrants didn’t avoid working with local police during violent crime investigations for fear of deportation.

“Illinois has been welcoming of immigrants for a long time, and this bill will continue that tradition,” Rauner said in a statement upon signing the legislation.

“It breaks my heart to see the senseless violence going on in our streets, especially when that violence is inflicted on innocent children,” Rauner said. “We need to prioritize our resources for the prevention of violent crime.”

Those words may now be tinged with bitter irony for local Republicans. Several community members who spoke against sanctuary status at the county board meeting cited fears of migrants committing crimes in the communities. So far, county law enforcement and emergency management staff have said there has been no uptick in crime attributed to any of the migrant busing that’s occurred to date.

Citing a “humanitarian and budgetary catastrophe” for Chicago caused by a migrant influx in recent months, Illinois House Republicans and Illinois House Minority Leader Toby McCombie still have active petitions on their websites calling for the repeal of the act. McCombie and other Republicans have also pushed bills to erase the Trust Act from the books.

Meanwhile, local law enforcement reports on federal immigration case requests made to their agencies are due to the Illinois attorney general’s office at the end of this week.

Kane County Board Member Michelle Gumz, who is a Democrat, took Pierog’s statement one step further.

“Every single city in the United States of America is a sanctuary city,” Gumz said at the board meeting.

Gumz cited her time working as a dispatcher for the Aurora Police Department in making her statement. She said Aurora Police cooperated with federal immigration officials on criminal matters, but that doesn’t mean local police have federal immigration enforcement powers.

“Ask your local police officers if they have the right to ask about immigration status,” Gumz said. “They will tell you no.”

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