Under an ordinance passed earlier this month by the Cook County Board, a suspected illegal immigrant charged with anything from a traffic violation to first-degree murder can be freed on bond, even when federal authorities ask to have them detained for possible deportation.
“They're walking out the front gates like anyone else,” sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson said.
It's a new policy Craig believes threatens law enforcement and the citizens they're trying to protect.
“Releasing (an illegal immigrant) who committed a forcible (serious) felony is wrong,” Craig said. “That's someone who doesn't care about becoming a good citizen, or care about the things we value in our community.”
Craig is now reaching out to both Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and Board President Toni Preckwinkle in hopes they will reexamine the county ordinance, spurred on by the confrontation that took place at 12:15 a.m. July 31.
Authorities said two Hanover Park officers were conducting a routine late-night check at First Stop Auto Repair, 1822 Irving Park Road, when they encountered four intoxicated people, including the shop's co-owner. The group became abusive and rushed, grabbed, punched and shoved the officers, attempted to take one officer's gun, and tried to prevent arrests, authorities said.
The three offenders believed to be in the U.S. illegally were released after posting 10 percent of their $5,000 bail, despite a detainer request by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. The suspects are due back in court at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26.
Hanover Park Police Chief David Webb told Craig that the sheriff's department supervisor at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse “would not cooperate” with ICE agents trying to have them detained.
It's a case that appears to have fallen through the cracks.
Dart spokesman Steve Patterson said records show the ICE agent contacted by the sheriff's court deputy responded that he likely wouldn't make it to the courthouse before the detainer period expired. The jail typically holds inmates up to 48 hours beyond what the criminal case would require if requested to do so by ICE.
“With that, our office had no other reason it could hold the defendants and released all three,” Patterson said. “Why that first agent declined to make the trip to Rolling Meadows, we don't know.”
Different ICE agents have since informed the sheriff's office that they should no longer rely on that particular agent, Patterson said.
Under the new Cook County ordinance, which officials believe is the only one of its kind in the nation, releasing suspected illegal immigrants such as Cazares, Echeverría and Paredes if they make bail now is standard practice.
Commissioners who supported the ordinance said it is a step toward equal treatment under the law. Larry Suffredin, an Evanston Democrat, said the move is “righting a wrong against people that are on the soil of Cook County.”
Proponents also cite financial savings, saying federal detainer requests cost the county $15 million annually.
The sheriff's office and the ordinance's opponents, including Commissioner Timothy Schneider, a Bartlett Republican, dispute that calculation.
Last year, the sheriff's office released 1,665 inmates into ICE custody. Considering they stay in the Cook County Jail an extra day on average, and it costs $143 a day to keep someone there, that's about a $240,000 yearly expense, Patterson said.
Neighboring counties, including Lake County officials, say they'll continue to abide by the federal requests.
“We don't take the detainers as polite requests,” Lake County Sheriff's Chief Wayne Hunter said. “We consider them court orders.”
Dart hasn't taken a public position on the ordinance, but he agrees there needs to be more clarity, Patterson said. There was so much misinformation at the time of the Sept. 7 vote, some county board members believed the ordinance applied only to misdemeanor cases.
He also said there needs to be uniformity in enforcement.
“The fact that you have local governments interpreting and enforcing federal policy differently all across the country is pretty frightening,” Patterson said. “It's pretty insane that federal policy and whether you get deported could be decided by which side of Lake-Cook Road you get pulled over right now.”
Craig, whose community has a significant immigrant population, reiterated that the ordinance goes too far by letting everyone — including violent criminals — go home instead of into ICE custody.
“I'd just assume get these people off the street and I expect Cook County to be sensible and responsible in their actions,” Craig said. “This isn't about targeting soccer moms who make an illegal left turn; it's about the forcible felonies.”
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