DU QUOIN — Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner used the opening of the Du Quoin State Fair on Friday to veto "bad bills" to expand rights for immigrants living in Illinois illegally as the governor tries to solidify core rural conservatives Downstate who back President Donald Trump behind his re-election.
Rauner told WJPF-AM 1020 in Marion that Illinois' high number of immigrants who lack documentation "pushes up our unemployment rate and that holds down wages in Illinois and takes jobs away from Americans. We've got to stand against that."
The Republican governor also said he has pushed the federal government to require electronic verification of worker residency status in the country.
"We increase the penalties for employers who hire illegals rather than Americans, we can really clamp down on illegal immigration and we can lead to more jobs for Americans and higher wages," he said.
Rauner, facing a challenge from Democratic governor candidate J.B. Pritzker, has worked since the primary to try to unify conservatives unhappy with his past approval of measures that expanded abortion, immigration and gay rights.
In a statement, Pritzker called Rauner's vetoes "a cowardly, political move that exploits divisions he and Donald Trump try to make in our society." Pritzker said the legislation provided "practical, common sense solutions to urgent issues that immigrants" face and vowed he would sign similar measures if elected.
Rauner had previously come under fire from conservatives over signing into law an immigration measure that prevents people from being held by law enforcement solely on the immigration status without a judicial court order. Rauner has been forced to defend his signature as not creating "sanctuary" law.
But on Friday he spoke out against "that whole sanctuary concept" and blamed Democrats for forcing the legislation that resulted in his vetoes, though some measures also got support from Republican lawmakers.
One measure he rejected would create "immigration safe zones" which would require the attorney general to develop policies for courthouses, schools, libraries, medical facilities and shelters on how to handle immigration enforcement activity. It also would remove questions of immigration status from applications for benefits from state agencies, schools and universities.
Rauner also vetoed legislation that he said forced law enforcement to advance visa applications to immigrants "who otherwise would be deported" in order to defer their removal in cases where they "claim to be victims of crimes."
Supporters said the legislation set rules for processing visa applications aimed at assisting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, giving them federal protections if law enforcement certified they came forward and actively cooperated in prosecuting their case.
"That ties the hands of law enforcement," Rauner said before his veto. "It can delay deportations that should otherwise occur."
Rauner also vetoed legislation that would prohibit landlords and building owners from asking about a tenant's immigration status.
Supporters said the measure would prevent immigrants from having their legal status used against them if landlords did not comply with building codes and standards. But Rauner said, "We should not be tying the hands of any property owners of this state or supporting illegal immigration in that way."
"I'm vetoing those three bad bills," he told the radio station.
Rauner signed two other immigration-related measures -- one prohibiting any registry programs involving people due to race or religion and another allowing skilled immigrants to more easily seek licenses for professional activities.
The Republican governor called the two new laws "really minor, pretty nothing."