Kwame Y. Raoul
Kwame Y. Raoul

SPRINGFIELD — The state’s top legal officer is putting his weight behind an Illinois law that prevents state and local law enforcement from acting on behalf of federal immigration authorities.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Y. Raoul filed an amicus brief Tuesday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois defending the constitutionality of the TRUST Act in a lawsuit against the Stephenson County Sheriff’s Office.

That case is Pedro Tlapa Castillo v. David Snyders, No. 19 C 50311.

Coined first by other states that passed similar laws, TRUST is an acronym for “Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools.”

“The TRUST Act reflects the values of Illinois residents and serves to build relationships between law enforcement agencies and immigrant communities instead of spreading fear based on immigration status,” Raoul said in a written statement. “I was proud to vote for the TRUST Act as a state senator, and as [a]ttorney [g]eneral, I will fight to uphold the law.”

The TRUST Act, which took effect in 2017, prohibits state and local law enforcement officials from detaining or “continu[ing] to detain any individual solely on the basis of any immigration detainer or nonjudicial immigration warrant.”

The brief comes on the heels of another court document filed by Raoul last month that supports a lawsuit seeking to block federal agents from making civil immigration arrests inside and around state courthouses.

In the January brief, Raoul and 14 other attorneys general endorsed Washington state’s lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The brief in State of Washington v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security, No. 19 C 2043-TSZ in the Western District of Washington, asks Seattle-based U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly to enjoin the Trump administration from carrying out its policy authorizing federal officers to detain and arrest undocumented individuals while they are in court.

Raoul and the attorneys general argue in their Washington brief that the new policy, later made official in ICE Directive Number 11072.1, resulted in an increase in arrests at or near the states’ courthouses and “invades core sovereign interests.”

Tuesday’s brief in the Castillo case seeks to extend similar arguments and protections. Pedro Tlapa Castillo sued the Stephenson County Sheriff last year in state court alleging deputies violated the TRUST Act when they arrested and detained Castillo following a traffic stop in Freeport.

In November, the sheriff’s office removed the case to federal court, alleging the state law is in conflict and interferes with federal immigration law. The sheriff’s office also challenged the constitutionality of the law, triggering an intervention on behalf of the state from Raoul’s office.

Conflict preemption occurs when “it is impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal law and where the state law is an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of Congress’ full purposes and objectives,” according to a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Crosby v. National Foreign Trade Council.

Field preemption occurs when the federal law “may touch a field in which the federal interest is so dominant that the federal system will be assumed to preclude enforcement of state laws on the same subject,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp. (1947).

Raoul argues the sheriff’s office has not “come close to carrying” the burden of proof necessary to establish the field preemption, and the conflict preemption is not a justified defense in the case. He also claims the law is consitutional because it reflects the state’s choice to abstain from enforcing federal immigration policies.

”Defendant’s defense that federal authority over immigration pre-empts the TRUST Act ignores critical components of federal law that recognize and preserve the [s]tate’s sovereign right to decide whether to use its resources to support federal immigration enforcement,” Raoul argues in the 17-page brief.

Raoul also contends the sheriff “conced[ed] that he worked ‘hand-in-hand’ with federal officers to detain [Castillo] based on a ‘detainer from a [f]ederal [i]mmigration [o]fficer from the Department of Homeland Security,’” meaning the sheriff knowingly overstepped state law.

That argument also fails because it is incompatible with the 10th Amendment, according to the brief.

”But any such order by federal authorities to local officials would constitute unconstitutional commandeering of local resources by the federal government — and would thus not be an order with which the [s]heriff may lawfully comply,” the AG argued.