July 9th, 2019 2:41 PM
ACTING TOGETHER: State Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch and state Sen. Don Harmon (pictured to the left of Welch), during an Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Summit in February at Malcolm X College. The event focused heavily on the Keep Illinois Families Together Act. | Rep. Welch/Facebook
Two significant legislative measures sponsored by area lawmakers were signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last month. The legislation includes a bill to protect immigrant families and a bill to reform the state's human trafficking laws.
The Keep Illinois Families Together Act, or House Bill 1637, which went into effect on June 21, is designed to keep public bodies like school districts, libraries, hospitals and courthouses from handing over confidential information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
The law also bans local law enforcement agencies from inquiring about the citizenship, immigration status or birthplace of any person who has been arrested or detained by an agency.
State Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (7th), who represents part of River Forest, filed HB 1637 in the House back in January. Along with Welch, state Representatives Camille Y. Lilly (78th) and La Shawn K. Ford (8th) co-sponsored the bill in the House.
"With the toxic rhetoric surrounding immigration coming from the White House, people in my district are scared," state Sen. Don Harmon (39th), who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said in a statement released in May.
"This legislation takes a small step toward easing that fear by making sure they feel comfortable seeking assistance from police or reporting crimes," Harmon explained at the time.
Harmon pointed out that the new act "builds on a law passed last year, the Trust Act, that prohibits local law enforcement from detaining someone solely on the basis of their immigration status.
"Unlike the administration in Washington, Illinois is focused on protecting families and keeping them together," said Lilly, adding that HB 1637 "will allow Illinois law enforcement to focus on local needs, such as reducing gun violence."
Lilly was the only one of the three area representatives to also sponsor the House version of Senate Bill 1890, which extends the state's civil and criminal statute of limitations for human trafficking crimes from three years to 25 years. The law also fines up to $100,000 any business that profits from human trafficking — the first time in state history that such a fine has been imposed.
In addition, the law requires law enforcement officials to undergo training for detecting and investigating all forms of human trafficking.
"No person should face sexual exploitation or involuntary servitude, but we owe those who are victims of this terrible crime the ability to achieve justice," Lilly explained in a statement. "This measure cracks down on those who profit from human trafficking and gives law enforcement additional training to help prevent women and children from becoming victims of exploitation and servitude."