1. STATE CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM:
A critical role of the Illinois Attorney General is to protect fundamental freedoms for our state’s residents. The Illinois Constitution is more modern than the Federal Constitution and, therefore, more specific and expansive in terms of freedoms afforded to Illinoisans.
Do you believe that the Attorney General can seek added protections by invoking the provisions of the Illinois Constitution rather than the federal constitution? If you would use the Illinois Constitution in this expansive manner, how? If no, why?
RAOUL: Our system of government allows states to act in many ways that are not precluded or specified by the federal laws or constitution, and one of the advantages of this approach is that Illinois is free to protect its residents’ civil rights and quality of life to an even more robust extent than the minimum threshold established in the U.S. Constitution. In provisions involving education, the environment and more, Illinois’ constitution goes above the beyond the federal constitution to spell out protections Illinois guarantees. Recognizing the state constitution’s value as a means of protecting civil rights, I sponsored its voting rights amendment while in the state Senate. As attorney general, it will be my job to uphold the state laws and constitution in addition to the U.S. Constitution, and I will utilize state-level protections to defend the rights, liberties and wellbeing of Illinoisans.
The role of state attorney general is more important today than at any time in the nation’s history as a result of the federal government’s unprecedented attacks on civil rights and the rule of law. In many cases, state attorneys general stand as the people’s last line of defense against these threats. In such an environment, it is an advantage to Illinoisans to have a strong state constitution, and I will use it whenever appropriate.
2. TRUMP ANTI-CIVIL LIBERTIES AGENDA:
Many state Attorneys General have pushed back against the Trump administration’s anti-civil liberties initiatives. These efforts have included litigation challenging the administration’s policies, support for state legislation and policies designed to mitigate the harm caused by those policies, and assuming civil rights enforcement responsibilities that the administration has abandoned.
Will you respond to the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back criminal justice reform, police reform, prison reform, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, freedom of the press, and other civil rights and civil liberties? If so, how?
RAOUL: I will not hesitate to become involved in national issues, including by filing suit against the federal government when necessary, whenever the rights, protections and values of Illinois residents are threatened.
The Trump administration has threatened constitutional rights, legal rights and the rule of law in unprecedented ways, and state attorneys general have emerged as one of the strongest lines of defense against these attacks. Historically, the United States attorney general would typically intervene to protect citizens against state-level violations of their rights, but today the roles have shifted such that state attorneys general must step up to protect their states’ citizens from overreach by the federal government, while the U.S. attorney general looks on passively or actively participates in the attacks.
By applying pressure, state attorneys general have succeeded in blocking an irresponsible and extreme Trump administration settlement which would have allowed for the online distribution of designs for untraceable, homemade 3D-printed guns. State attorneys general have also been a critical part of finding a solution to the inhumane separation of immigrant families, filing suit to stop this heartless policy and force the government to reunite families. When the federal government stepped back on net neutrality, data privacy, environmental conservation, protecting students from financial exploitation and defending the rights of sexual assault victims on college campuses, state attorneys general stepped up and took action in court. They have filed suit to stop the Trump administration from sabotaging the Affordable Care Act and taking away Americans’ healthcare access.
Illinois’ current attorney general has participated in many of these suits and stepped up to force a Chicago Police Department consent decree when the U.S. Department of Justice abandoned its duty to uphold respect for civil rights in law enforcement. She also recently helped secure federal money for policing that had been withheld because of Chicago’s and Illinois’ posture of fostering cooperation between law enforcement and immigrant communities, rather than squandering that trust and wasting taxpayer dollars doing ICE’s job. Illinois’ constitution and Human Rights Act offer our state in particular a firm legal foundation from which to undertake civil rights actions. As attorney general, I will be well-positioned to act as the state’s advocate-in-chief but also go to court to defend our most deeply valued rights.
These are all examples of how state attorneys general can protect Illinois families and communities at a time when the federal government is putting them at risk. I will continue to participate in these types of suits, work with my counterparts in other states and prepare to take action as new issues arise – for example, if Roe v. Wade is overturned and the protection to access abortion in Illinois is challenged. I will also continue the work I began by introducing legislation to remove Illinois from the Crosscheck database program. As attorney general, I will aggressively investigate any attempts to interfere in Illinois elections, whether it’s by jeopardizing voter privacy, election integrity or the right to vote.
Over the course of the past year, I’ve engaged in conferences with many of the Democratic attorneys general who have been at the forefront of filing suits against the administration. I have developed relationships that will allow me to individually and collectively participate in these actions as attorney general. Illinoisans should be able to rely on the attorney general to proactively defend them against legal threats regardless of the source.
In the past eighteen months, the federal government has deployed increasingly cruel, unnecessary, and in some cases unlawful enforcement tactics against immigrants and their families. These have included a ban on travel to the U.S. for people from predominantly Muslim countries, stops and arrests without individualized suspicion of wrongdoing, raids that indiscriminately sweep up everyone present at a workplace or other location; and enforcement actions at courthouses that target people appearing as witnesses or for other important court business.
Will you take steps to protect documented and undocumented immigrants in Illinois from harmful or unlawful immigration enforcement practices? If so, how? If not, why?
RAOUL: I voted in support of the Illinois TRUST Act in the state Senate, and as attorney general, I will uphold this law in any context, including federal challenge or attempted retaliation through the withholding of federal funds. I will continue to advocate for policies that protect immigrants living in Illinois from unfair treatment, hate crimes and any other threats, and I will be a leading voice against federal efforts to undermine the trust between immigrants and law enforcement by attempting to force local and state police to serve as de facto immigration agents. Local and state police do not have the resources or training for this task and should be allowed to focus on preventing and solving crimes, not harassing peaceful residents based on their alleged immigration status. I support the current attorney general’s suit to block the federal government from denying law enforcement grants based on law enforcement’s posture of building trust rather than acting as immigration agents.
I have also supported legislation protecting immigrants’ access to schools, hospitals and courts, as well as a bill prohibiting housing discrimination based on immigration status. The governor recently vetoed these essential measures to bring all our residents out of the shadows and allow them fair treatment and access to justice, and I support overriding his actions. As attorney general, I will use the position and my advocacy influence on behalf of crime victims, regardless of immigration status or documentation, because everyone within our borders deserves justice and their day in court.
Finally, I have been outspoken in my opposition to the proposed inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census, and I will continue to work with our U.S. senators, members of Illinois’ congressional delegation and allies throughout the country to prevent the use of the census as a means of intimidation.
This past June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s draconian process for removing voters from the rolls if they fail to vote for two years and do not return a postcard mailed to their address.
Will you protect Illinois voters from “purges” that may remove eligible voters from the rolls, while retaining voter security? If so, how? If not, why?
RAOUL: Illinois has some of the strongest voter protections in the country, and during my time in the state Senate, I have worked to safeguard the right to vote and prevent the disenfranchisement we have seen in other states under the guise of preventing voter fraud. I sponsored the Illinois Voting Rights Act as well as a constitutional amendment prohibiting discrimination against eligible voters on the basis of race, sex, income, national origin, religion and sexual orientation. I have consistently spoken out against vote suppression and the burdensome and discriminatory requirements, such as voter ID laws, that many other states have adopted.
I joined the current attorney general and my colleagues in the legislature to block the actions of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and I recently passed legislation – which Gov. Rauner vetoed – to end the state’s use of Crosscheck, which is proven to put personal data at risk and wrongly flag eligible voters as improperly registered.
As attorney general, I will immediately investigate any interference with Illinois elections and advocate for secure voter information systems that ensure all eligible voters are allowed to register and cast a ballot.
Increasingly, individuals and other entities claim their religious beliefs justify various actions, even when the actions impact others. This can be seen when some businesses claim a right to discriminate against LGBTQ people and others in the provision of goods and services and when health care providers impose religiously-based restrictions on the services and information offered to patients.
Will you oppose attempts to use religion as a license for discrimination prohibited by the Illinois Human Rights Act? If so, how? If no, why not?
RAOUL: The Illinois Human Rights Act, like the First Amendment, protects religious belief, but it does not give license to unlawful acts, including discrimination. In the General Assembly, I co-sponsored the expansion of the Human Rights Act to include sexual orientation as grounds upon which discrimination is prohibited. I also supported clarifications to the Healthcare Right of Conscience Act that protected a patient’s right to receive information about how to access care. A healthcare provider should not be forced to perform a procedure or provide a treatment that violates his or her conscience, but the exercise of this personal belief must never burden the rights of others. I will continue to advocate for legislation and policies that strike a similar balance, and I will defend in court a woman’s right to make informed healthcare choices against attempts to intrude on this personal decision-making, whether or not they are motivated by religious belief. I will also fight the Trump administration’s “gag rule” and other attempts to limit the information and care women can receive.
6. OPEN GOVERNMENT:
The goal of government transparency and accountability embodied in the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is frequently undermined when government entities delay responses to requests, claim unwarranted exemptions, or fail to respond at all.
Will you support Illinoisans’ right to full and prompt access to the public records needed to understand the operation of state and local government and hold public officials accountable? If so, how? If not, why?
RAOUL: I believe that the number one deterrent to public corruption is sunshine. That is why I sponsored legislation establishing in statute the Office of the Public Access Counselor in order to expedite responses to Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act complaints. Members of the media and the general public should be able to access all information to which they are entitled as quickly as possible, so elected officials can be held accountable and so voters and taxpayers understand what governments are doing with their authority and money.
FOIA is a powerful tool, but only to the extent that government bodies comply with it. One of my top priorities as attorney general will be assuring that the Public Access Counselor is appropriately staffed to respond quickly and accurately to FOIA requests and complaints.
7. CRIMINAL JUSTICE:
74% of Illinois voters believe our criminal justice system is “broken.” In December 2016, a bipartisan Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform recommended specific reforms to safely reduce the prison population by 25%. Yet two years later, Illinois still has one of the nation’s most overcrowded prison systems, and many of the Commission’s most significant recommendations still have not been enacted into law, including:
- Reducing the sentence classification for all drug crimes by one class;
- Raising the felony threshold dollar amounts for retail theft and other nonviolent property crimes from their current levels to $2,000; and
- Allowing inmates who are currently required by statute to serve 85% or 100% of their sentences to earn additional sentence credit to reduce the length of their prison stays.
Are you committed to working with the legislature to enact criminal justice reform measures? If so, what specific reforms do you consider your highest priorities, and what will you do to ensure that they are enacted? If not, why?
RAOUL: Because of my experience as a prosecutor and my concern for low-income communities and communities of color throughout the state ravaged by violent crime and mass incarceration, I made criminal justice reform a touchstone of my legislative career. I have sponsored bills that addressed exoneration, expungement and sealing, moving juveniles out of adult prisons, alternatives to incarceration for non-violent and first-time offenders, sentencing reform, the abolition of the death penalty, prison conditions and employment opportunities for those with criminal records. I sponsored the creation of the Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, to give those convicted based on confessions obtained through torture a second chance at justice. I passed legislation mandating investigation of all police-involved shootings. I served on the Sentencing Policy Advisory Council and the Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. Over the years, I have built valuable relationships with public officials and organizations working on criminal justice reform, and I have persuaded many of my colleagues in the General Assembly to join the effort to reduce the prison population and the recidivism rate in Illinois. I can use these relationships as attorney general to work effectively with the General Assembly on further progress toward common-sense criminal justice reform initiatives that make our communities safer and more prosperous.
My objectives are to continue developing Illinois’ alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-risk offenders and enforce the law on sealing and expungement of records (especially for juvenile ex-offenders and arrestees). We must explore expansion of the law on expungement to allow those still struggling under the weight of long-past transgressions the opportunity to move on when the circumstances warrant it.
Throughout the justice and correctional systems, I will advocate for the use of risk-based assessment tools to aid in matching people involved in the system with the programs and services that will best help them reintegrate into society and avoid recidivism.
Evidence tells us that untreated trauma feeds the cycle of violent crime when violence becomes normalized in a community and victims are disproportionately likely to become the next perpetrators. I will work to expand the trauma center pilot program I sponsored while in the Senate. I will also ensure that crime victim assistance funds handled by the office of the attorney general are distributed fairly, such that they target the populations and communities most profoundly affected by violent crime.
8. TRANSGENDER RIGHTS:
Despite progress in public understanding about gender dysphoria and inclusion of persons who are transgender in popular culture, discrimination against those who are transgender takes many forms and remains pervasive in many parts of society. Some health care plans continue to retain specific, discriminatory prohibitions on coverage of the health care necessary for the treatment of gender dysphoria. Employees who are transgender face discrimination as they transition (and after) at work. Students who are transgender face a myriad of problems, from the inability to execute a name change on school records to the ability to use gender-appropriate pronouns, or fully access and utilize the restroom and locker room consistent with a student’s gender identity. Persons who are transgender face harsh and discriminatory treatment from police.
Will you work to affirm and protect transgender people from discrimination by: (1) fighting to uphold federal court decisions holding that discrimination against transgender people violates federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination; and (2) taking steps to ensure that Illinois laws, such as the Human Rights Act, are interpreted broadly to affirm and protect people who are transgender from discrimination in Illinois, including in employment, their use of educational and other public facilities, access to public and private health care, their treatment by law enforcement personnel, and in prisons, juvenile facilities, and other forms of state custody? If so, how? If not, why?
RAOUL: I support enforcing anti-discrimination laws so that they protect those discriminated against on the basis of gender identity. My record reflects my support of transgender rights, equality and safety; for example, I supported the modernization of Illinois’ birth certificate laws in 2017. As attorney general, I will ensure that the office’s personnel practices are respectful and inclusive and that the work environment is affirming, with zero tolerance for bullying.
The federal Department of Education under Secretary DeVos has rolled back protections for transgender students, and the Trump administration has argued that federal anti-discrimination laws do not protect transgender people. I unequivocally oppose these steps backward. As attorney general, I will step up in defense of transgender Illinoisans, taking action whenever appropriate to oppose the administration’s overly narrow interpretation of federal law. I will also utilize the Illinois Human Rights Act to defend transgender rights in this state.
9. POLICE PRACTICES:
The national dialogue about the relationship between police and the communities they serve is very much active here in Illinois, specifically Chicago. Tensions between the Chicago police and many of the communities served by police run high today. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing report about practices and training in CPD, problems that exacerbate and heighten the tensions between police and – especially – communities of color. It is clear that Chicago’s policing system if broken and in need of systemic reform, with federal court oversight. The current Attorney General is negotiating a federal consent decree with the City of Chicago to reform the Chicago Police Department.
Will you pledge to urgently pursue and enforce a comprehensive consent decree with the City of Chicago, and involve community and civil rights groups in the monitoring and enforcement of the consent decree reforming the Chicago Police Department? If so, how? If not, why?
RAOUL: As attorney general, I will continue the office’s involvement in the consent decree process as long as it remains the most effective way of holding the Chicago Police Department’s feet to the fire so that genuine, systemic change occurs at CPD. I am deeply disappointed that after the Department of Justice conducted an investigation that clearly identified problematic practices within CPD, the DOJ’s new leadership under the current administration chose to ignore the evidence – in Chicago and other cities – and chose not to work with the police department, the City and, most importantly, members of the communities being policed to promote the appropriate use of force and effective, fair policing. In this instance as in so many others, it is critical for the Illinois attorney general to step up where the federal government has stepped back and failed in its duty to protect civil rights.
As a state legislator, I sponsored landmark law enforcement reforms that banned chokeholds, established standards for the use of officer-worn cameras, implemented new training requirements to ensure that officers statewide are educated on implicit bias and the appropriate use of force, and created a database to share information about cops who resign under investigation so that other departments do not unknowingly hire them. I have also passed legislation mandating the investigation of all police-involved shootings. I believe a consent decree – negotiated with the full involvement of the communities being policed and monitored by civil rights groups as well as by my office and the court – is the next essential step in pushing CPD to adopt and meaningfully enforce reforms that prevent future Laquan McDonalds from falling victim to the consequences of poor training and discipline in law enforcement.
10. REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS:
Access to reproductive health care in Illinois has become more critical than ever, as threats increase at the federal level and states throughout the Midwest pass increasingly harmful restrictions.
Will you commit to using the power of your office to protect and expand access to the full range of reproductive health care and information, including contraception and abortion, for all people in Illinois? If so, how? If not, why?
RAOUL: For my entire career, I have supported safe, legal access to abortion and contraception. I firmly believe a woman should be trusted to make her own personal decisions about her health and family. As the father of a college-aged daughter, I would never want the government dictating to her the decisions she can make about her own health.
I co-sponsored the state law that ensures women are given information about how to access health care even when their providers have moral objections to furnishing the treatment they choose. I also supported comprehensive, medically-informed sex education in schools.
I was proud to cast a vote for House Bill 40, the law that expands access to reproductive healthcare and protects a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion in Illinois if Roe v. Wade is overturned. With the Supreme Court’s balance threatened by a Trump appointee and Roe v. Wade in grave danger, I can assure Illinoisans that I am willing to go to court to protect Illinois’ abortion access laws against all challenges. I will always defend a woman’s right to choose and access to the full spectrum of healthcare options.
11. WOMEN'S RIGHTS:
Despite the progress already made in the struggle for gender equality, women still face violence, discrimination, and institutional barriers to equal participation in society. Gender bias continues to create significant barriers.
Will you commit to using the full extent of your authority to enforce state and federal civil rights laws in order to address policies and practices that have a discriminatory impact on women and/or are based on sex stereotyping? If so, how? If not, why?
RAOUL: Yes. I was proud to co-sponsor Illinois’ ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, as well as legislation to fight wage discrimination by prohibiting employers from asking about prospective hires’ past salaries. I have sponsored numerous pieces of legislation, including this year a bill of rights for sexual assault survivors, that help women get the resources and access to justice they need when dealing with domestic violent and sexual assault. I supported overhauling the way state government handles reports of sexual harassment so that women who come forward are taken seriously and protected from retaliation. I have opposed gender discrimination and inequity in areas from healthcare to the workplace.
One of my priorities will be strengthening and expanding the Workplace Rights Bureau and continuing to advocate for it to have independent investigatory authority over all types of labor law violations, including wage discrimination and refusal to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy. I am also committed to the vigorous prosecution of sexual assault and domestic violence, and I will use the office to assist law enforcement and prosecutors across the state in going after criminals who target women, processing rape kits in a timely fashion and using best practices to interact with and empower survivors.
State and federal civil rights laws are a powerful tool for addressing gender discrimination and combating the inequities women and girls still face in many settings. As in other areas of civil rights, the Trump administration is seeking to erode these protections. For example, his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, rescinded rules protecting students who report being sexually assaulted on campus. Reporting rape and reliving trauma in pursuit of a just resolution while staying in school is difficult enough without this new burden. As attorney general, I will take a public stance against the administration on this vital campus safety issue and will work with other state attorneys general to defend Title IX. I will also defend Illinois’ state-level protections, which I helped pass, of its college students.
Women have the right to participate equally in all spheres of life. I will use the position of attorney general to promptly investigate all complaints of sex discrimination and sexual harassment and to advocate for policies that promote full equality.