Amendments Threaten to Undercut Cook County’s ICE Detainer Ordinance

By chicagopublicmedia/ Flickr

On Thursday Feb. 9, the Cook County Board met to discuss two amendments that, if passed, would weaken the ICE Detainer Ordinance, passed by the Board on September of 2011.

With this ordinance, the Cook County Jail will refuse Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to keep individuals longer as opposed to setting them free unless ICE picks up the tab associated with holding people in jail longer than local law allows.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) sent out a massive petition urging residents and immigrant rights supporters to sign a letter opposing the amendments that would otherwise undercut the ordinance.

“You supported a groundbreaking ordinance to end our county’s compliance with immigration detainers that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) do not fully pay for.  This ordinance ended the unfunded mandate that ICE imposed on our county, and has helped keep families together,” states the letter.

While the County Board is considering the two amendments, advocacy groups are urging immigrant advocates to support Commissioner Jesus Garcia as he defends the initial ordinance.

The new debate originated after the tragic death of William McCann.  After news outlets focused on the convicted felon who completed his probation before going to jail on charges of killing McCann in a Northwest Side hit-and-run incident last year.

In the letter, ICIRR’s states that the tragedy was a failure by ICE, not the Cook County Board.

“ICE could have issued a legally-binding warrant for Mr. Chavez’s arrest, instead of just a detainer.  It could have picked up Chavez after his prior offense, or right after he was released on his current charge. It could have simply reimbursed the County $142.80 per day to hold Chavez, as the ordinance allows.  On all these counts, ICE failed. Yet ICE is now trying to bully the county into undoing the ordinance—and create more tragedies as families are separated due to deportation.”

In a four-hour hearing held by the County Board on Feb. 9 on proposals to honor the detainers for inmates who are potentially dangerous, Cook County sheriff Tom Dart said the jail had released 346 inmates named on ICE detainers since the ordinance passed. He added that eleven of those ended up arrested again in a variety of charges, reported WBEZ.

In an interview with WBEZ, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said that many citizens alike get out of jail and also cause trouble.

“People who are accused of very serious crimes are given bail every day because a judge makes a determination that they’re not a flight risk and they’re not a danger to our community,” she said. “So if you have a concern about people who are accused of serious crimes being released back into our community, it’s got to be broader concern than the two or three percent of them who are undocumented.”

It is still unclear when the amendments will be voted on but immigration supporters are urging residents to sign a petition against them.