Harmon05052017An effort to foster trust between Illinois police agencies and immigrants who live in the state passed out of the state Senate Thursday.

Local police should not have to do the federal government’s job, and immigrants should not have to live in fear of local police, Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said after casting a vote for Senate Bill 31, which would create the Illinois Trust Act. Harmon is a chief co-sponsor of the legislation.

“Illinois has long been a state that welcomes people from all nations. It’s one of the things I love the most about this state,” Harmon said. “But in this time of fear and uncertainty for many immigrants who live in our communities, it is important that we take steps to foster trust between local authorities and immigrants who have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide.”

The point of the Trust Act is simple: immigrants in Illinois should be able to pick up their children from school or go to the hospital without fear of arrest, and state and local police officers should be assured they’re not expected to enforce federal immigration laws. The act would:

  • clarify that state and local police are not deputized immigration agents and therefore are not expected to expend resources enforcing or complying with federal civil immigration detainers and administrative warrants;
  • prohibit state and local police from searching, arresting or detaining a person based solely on citizenship or immigration status or an administrative warrant;
  • prohibit law enforcement agencies from using state resources to create discriminatory federal registries based on race, national origin, religion or other protected classes; and
  • establish safe zones at schools, medical facilities and properties operated by the Illinois secretary of state, where federal immigration enforcement would not be admitted without a valid criminal warrant.

The measure also would establish deadlines for police to complete certification forms that are requested by immigrant victims of violent crimes who cooperate with police. The certifications are among the requirements for immigrant crime victims to apply for certain visas.

The act would not bar state and local police from conducting valid criminal investigations or serving criminal warrants, nor would it bar them from working with federal immigration agents to serve valid criminal warrants.

Several Illinois communities, including Oak Park, have passed “welcoming ordinances” in recent months that bar local authorities from collaborating with federal immigration officials to identify and apprehend undocumented citizens without a criminal warrant.

“Everyone should feel like they can go to the police when they need help or have something to report,” Harmon said. “Unfortunately, the president’s hateful rhetoric has had a chilling effect on immigrants’ willingness to come forward and report crimes because they’re afraid of being deported. We can’t allow that to stand.”

The Trust Act passed the Senate in a vote of 31-21 Thursday evening.

Category: News

The following column was published May 2, 2017, in the Oak Park Wednesday Journal.

 

Atf ffl checkWhen facing a problem, do something. If that doesn't work, do something else.

That pithy advice is credited to President Franklin Roosevelt. Last week in Springfield, we finally did something to help stop kids from dying in our streets by passing bipartisan state-level gun dealer licensing legislation.

Despite cries to the contrary from gun advocates, this proposal could bring meaningful change to the neighborhoods I represent by protecting families from the devastating scourge of senseless gun violence.

Fourteen-year-old children are shooting each other because guns end up too easily in the wrong hands. Senate Bill 1657 will give police new tools to hold corrupt or reckless gun dealers accountable and curb the flow of illegal guns to our streets. It is a meaningful step to protect our children and neighborhoods.

This measure is long overdue for Illinois.

I first introduced similar legislation in 2003 and attempted to pass it in every General Assembly since. No debate has frustrated me more. In those years, thousands of lives were lost, entire communities were destabilized, and Chicago gained widespread attention — all because of gun violence and the powerful gun lobby.

Locally, we gathered at dozens of community meetings and anti-violence rallies on the West Side. Last month, we discussed the problem at the historic Austin Town Hall, a block from the brazen daylight shooting that left one dead and five injured just days before.

At every gathering, our anger and frustration has grown, as has the desperate cry for action from grieving families and communities.

The Illinois Senate finally took a step forward on a common-sense solution. Gun dealers are the most critical link between manufacturers and the public. A recent study revealed that 40 percent of guns used in crimes in Chicago were sold by Illinois gun dealers.

Senate Bill 1657 encourages responsible business practices — including background checks, employee training and state inspection authority of dealer locations — to curb illegal transfers of guns.

Illinois would not be alone in requiring state-level licensing; 27 other states have enacted similar rules.

This is a difficult issue for many. Other corners of Illinois have different cultural mores when it comes to gun ownership and rights. Law-abiding gun owners deserve a place at the table, too. I appreciate my downstate colleagues who chose to see things from our point of view, including the lone Senate Republican brave enough to cross the aisle to get this done.

As this debate moves to the House, we will need to find more support. We will not benefit from the cooperation of the National Rifle Association, which responded to the Senate's action by instructing members to "neutralize Harmon" — an alarming but not surprising reaction.

I urge you, those who are directly affected by gun violence and who have seen the devastating effects of it, to do something to ensure this legislation is successful in the House. Call and write Illinois' state representatives to voice your support. Get involved with an anti-gun violence advocacy group.

We owe it to our children and to those we've lost to gun violence to do something.

State Senator Don Harmon represents the 39th District, which includes Oak Park, where he is a resident.

Category: News

Harmon04272017GunLicenseAfter more than a decade of building support for state-level gun dealer licensing, Senator Don Harmon advanced the measure out of the Illinois Senate on Thursday in a 30-21 vote.

“This was a difficult and a controversial bill, I know,” said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat. “I appreciate the support of every senator who was able to put children and families ahead of the NRA.”

Senate Bill 1657 would allow Illinois to license gun dealers and encourage better business practices while holding corrupt dealers accountable as authorities try to get a handle on the violence epidemic that continues to plague Chicago neighborhoods. Gun dealers also must be licensed by federal authorities.

Harmon said he did the best he could to eliminate opposition to the legislation, which is a good-faith effort to crack down on a handful of irresponsible gun dealers where a large number of the guns involved violent crimes in the Chicago area originate.

Colleen Daley, executive director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, commended Harmon and the Senate for passing the long-awaited measure.

“On behalf of the Illinois Gun Violence Prevention Coalition, we are thankful to Senator Harmon and members of the Senate for passing this very important bill,” she said. “Licensing and regulation of gun dealers will help stem the flow of illegal guns, keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and ultimately save lives.

Harmon, whose district includes parts of the west side of Chicago where gun violence has reached epidemic proportions, became emotional after several senators raised objections to the legislation, in spite of daily news stories about deadly gun violence in Chicago neighborhoods. As of Wednesday, more than 1,000 people had been shot in Chicago.

“I’m not asking for much. I’m asking to give police the tools to go into the dealers and say, ‘Why did you sell 50 guns to one guy last month?’ Is that too much to ask?” Harmon said. “We’re not going to put people out of business. Believe me, there will always be guns for sale.

But can you help us in our neighborhoods, where 14-year-olds are shooting each other because guns are so easily available? This isn’t a perfect solution, but we have to do something.”

Senate Bill 1657 will move to the Illinois House for consideration.

 

Audio from Thursday's floor debate

Harmon: 'The NRA owns Washington'

Harmon: 'We have to do something'

 

Category: News

WindFarmCornSenator Don Harmon’s effort to correct ambiguous language in the Rauner administration’s massive Exelon bailout bill could have a profound positive effect on Illinois’ economy – to the tune of at least $2.2 billion in the short term.

By striking seven words in the Exelon bill, Illinois can clear the way for continued investment in wind energy in the prairie state – projects already permitted but that are on hold because of the murky language. That investment includes:

  • $2.2 billion in Illinois wind farms,
  • 650 new wind towers, and
  • 1 million hours in construction work.

Significant additional projects await the permitting process if the ambiguity in state law can be eliminated through Senate Bill 71, said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and a longtime proponent of renewable energy and clean jobs. The legislation represents the kind of sensible, business-friendly legislation that can spur economic investment in Illinois.

“The Exelon bill created significant uncertainty that prevented investment in Illinois by the wind industry, which makes no sense,” Harmon said. “Once we learned of the problem, I knew we would need to resolve it as quickly as possible because we want Illinois to retain its place as a national leader in wind energy.”

The legislation has bipartisan support and passed unanimously in the Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee last week. Proponents include the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Illinois Environmental Council, the Laborers’ International Union Midwest Region, the Citizens Utility Board, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and others.

Twenty-five Illinois wind farms supply power to about 1 million homes. The first wind installation in the state went online in 2003.

According to a 2016 report by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, wind farms support about 870 permanent jobs in rural Illinois, generate $30.4 million in annual property taxes and produce $13.86 million in yearly income for landowners who lease their land to wind farm developers. Wind farms have a total economic benefit of $6.4 billion over their lifespans, according to the analysis.

“Economic development isn’t as difficult as Gov. Rauner wants people to believe it is. As we watch demand for renewable energy increase in the coming years, it’s important that lawmakers foster the industry’s growth in Illinois and seize opportunities to protect it from unnecessary government meddling,” Harmon said.

“These are the kinds of things that will make Illinois a business-friendly state and help us to get the economy ‘boomin’,’ as Gov. Rauner likes to say. I look forward to his support on this legislation.”

Category: News

ChicagoPolice ArrestImmigrants in Illinois should be able to pick up their children from school or go to the hospital without fear of arrest, and state and local police officers should be assured they’re not expected to enforce federal immigration laws.

That’s the thrust of a proposal co-sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that could be heard in the Senate Executive Committee next week.

“This legislation sends an important message about Illinois – about who we are and the principles we hold dear in this state of 12.8 million diverse people,” said Harmon, who is among the state lawmakers and supporters who will appear at a news conference Monday morning at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights office in Chicago to promote the measure.

Senate Bill 31 creates the Illinois Trust Act, which would:

  • clarify that state and local police are not deputized immigration agents and therefore are not expected to expend resources enforcing or complying with federal civil immigration detainers and administrative warrants;
  • prohibit state and local police from searching, arresting or detaining a person based solely on citizenship or immigration status or an administrative warrant;
  • prohibit law enforcement agencies from using state resources to create discriminatory federal registries based on race, national origin, religion or other protected classes; and
  • establish safe zones at schools, medical facilities and properties operated by the Illinois secretary of state, where federal immigration enforcement would not be admitted without a valid criminal warrant.

The measure also would establish deadlines for police to complete certification forms that are requested by immigrant victims of violent crimes who cooperate with police. The certifications are among the requirements for immigrant crime victims to apply for certain visas.

The act would not bar state and local police from conducting valid criminal investigations or serving criminal warrants, nor does it bar them from working with federal immigration agents to serve valid warrants.

Harmon noted that many of his constituents support policies to protect immigrants and local authorities from overreach by the federal government. For example, the Oak Park village board in February unanimously passed a “welcoming ordinance” that bars Oak Park authorities from collaborating with federal immigration officials to identify and apprehend undocumented citizens without a criminal warrant.

“It is important that undocumented immigrants are able to talk with local police officers to report and help solve crimes without fear of being deported. We want all people to be able to pick up their children from school or seek medical help without being terrified that someone will ask them their immigration status and turn them over to government officials,” Harmon said. “That’s what this bill helps to accomplish, and that’s why it has broad support, including from law enforcement groups.

“Fearful immigrants are withdrawing into the shadows because of the Trump administration’s dangerous policies,” he continued. “State lawmakers can help to restore trust between immigrants and the local authorities who are there to help and protect them, not round them up and detain them on behalf of the president of the United States.”

Category: News

Contact Me

Email Senator Harmon

Springfield Office:
329 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(p) 217.782.8176
(f) 217.558.6013

Oak Park Office:
6941-B W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(p) 708.848.2002
(f) 708.848.2022

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