SPRINGFIELD -- In addition to the Illinois Dream Act's passage in the Illinois Senate last week, immigration activists are celebrating Governor Pat Quinn's decision to pull Illinois out of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)'s "Secure Communities" program. Quinn's executive decision was bolstered by the Illinois House, which passed legislation making county participation in Secure Communities optional, a statutory effort that will make it more difficult to rescind Quinn's immigration policy in the future.
Groups that support the enforcement of federal immigration law are watching how these pro-immigration measures move through the General Assembly, and are threatening to turn up the heat on lawmakers that would make it easier for the nearly half million illegal immigrants now within Illinois borders.
ICE's Secure Communities rejected by Governor
ICE's Secure Communities program expanded into the Chicago area in 2009 with the stated goal of rounding up illegals that had committed felonies and strengthening efforts to deport the offenders back to their native countries. The ICE agreement with the Illinois State Police explained:
ICE is committed to improving community safety by transforming the manner in which the federal govemment cooperates with state and local LEAs [Law Enforcement Agencies] to identify, detain and remove aliens convicted of a serious criminal offense.
Immigration groups such as Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights protested the Secure Communities, outraged that 46% of those picked up by ICE had not committed felonies, but were still being held and deported by the feds. ICIRR said families were being separated and immigrant communities were fearful of deportation amidst law enforcement queries surrounding traffic violations and car accidents, among other everyday occurences.
Thus ICIRR pushed for Illinois to pull out of the Secure Communities program, and last week, Governor Quinn notified ICE and the House passed legislation allowing counties to determine for themselves whether they would participate, if, per chance, Quinn's declaration did not stand.
House Bill 929, sponsored by State Rep. Dan Burke (D-Chicago), passed the Illinois House with bi-partisan support, and groups concerned about the growth of illegals in Illinois are unhappy with those who voted for the effort.
Immigration law enforcement lawmaker appears to change position
One in particular is State Rep. Randy Ramey, a Republican lawmaker from Addison that's been a staunch proponent of stronger immigration law enforcement since being elected five years ago. Ramey surprised his local Tea Party group with his support for making the Secure Communities program optional.
Not only did Ramey support the legislation, he signed on as a co-sponsor. A member of the Tri-Count-Teas, Ramey wrote an explanation over the weekend to his fellow area Tea Partiers:
...This bill allows county sheriffs to opt out of an ICE program called Secure Communities. There are 26 counties in the program and currently only 2 sheriffs who wish to opt out. I was a co-sponsor of this bill had asked other Republicans to vote for it. The reason is that I have crafted a deal that would allow HB 306, another ICE program, to move forward and be debated on the House floor. This is a major movement of this bill.
HB 306 is called Rapid Repat or Rapid Repatriation which allows early deportation of non-violent felons from the Illinois Department of Corrections. These non-violent felons have been determined to be illegal aliens. They would be deported anyway but with this bill they would be deported up to 6 months early and subject to parole violation if they come back to Illinois. This bill would save the State millions of dollars and reduce the overcrowding in our corrections system.
I have been working with ICE on this bill for over 4 years and have never been able to get it to the House floor for debate. The opportunity now exists thanks to my friends who helped me pass HB 929.
Rep. Ramey assured the Tri-Count-Tea members that the vote on HB 929 will really have no effect in Illinois:
Gov. Quinn terminated the memorandum of understanding with ICE on Thursday on Secure Communities so HB 929 has no effect in Illinois. My hope is that you can understand my willingness to negotiate on this issue. I believe that I will obtain my objective without compromising my principles. I think many of you know that I have and will continue to fight the illegal alien issue in Illinois.
Ramey's support for HB 929 adds to frustration with state lawmakers, particulalry Republicans whose party platform supports enforcing federal immigration laws. Groups had already turned up heat on last week's Illinois Senate vote for a state DREAM Act, setting up a privately-funded, state-overseen scholarship fund for illegal immigrants' children.
HB 929 will progress to the Illinois Senate to be heard before the end of the session, scheduled for May 31st.
Additional info about the Secure Communities program:
Last Friday's roll call vote on HB 929