CHICAGO – When the largely Democratic Cook County Board passed a controversial ordinance that effectively gave amnesty to criminal illegal aliens, it was no surprise that conservatives condemned the ordinance.
But now there’s criticism from some unlikely sources, the Immigration Customs Enforcement which is run by the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, as well as the office of Democratic Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.
An ICE official blasted the ordinance by saying it will lead to violent criminals being released on the streets of Cook County. Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office is disputing claims that holding detainees for ICE costs the county about $15 million yearly. He said it costs only a fraction of that.
The ordinance means that the Cook County prison no longer will hold inmates held under an administrative order called an ICE detainer unless ICE agrees to pay for the cost of the additional incarceration. An ICE detainer is a hold ICE places on prisoners in municipal prisons, usually for up to two business days, who also are in violation of immigration law. The detainer allows ICE to come and fetch the detainee instead of having them released on bond or because their sentence is ended.
According to ICE’s Gail Montenegro, the new ordinance will endanger the citizens of Cook County.
“ICE places detainers on aliens arrested on criminal charges to ensure that dangerous criminals are not released from prisons/jails and into our communities. Even though some aliens may be arrested on minor criminal charges, they may also have more serious criminal backgrounds which disguise their true danger to society. Historically, some criminal aliens with ICE detainers, who have been mistakenly released to the streets rather than being turned over to ICE custody and placed in deportation proceedings, have subsequently committed more serious crimes,” Montenegro said.
“Law enforcement agencies that honor ICE detainers ultimately help protect public safety. ICE anticipates that law enforcement agencies will comply with the detainer though ICE has not sought to compel compliance through legal proceedings. Jurisdictions that ignore detainers bear the risk of possible public safety risks.”
In response, Commissioner Jesus Garcia said, “I am deeply concerned by the prospect that any dangerous criminals will be mistakenly released into our streets; whether they are Mexican nationals or U.S. citizens or from other countries is irrelevant. We need to ensure that local authorities entrusted with making decisions of paramount importance, such as whether to release a pretrial detainee on bond, have the tools necessary to make the right decision. That is why it is crucial that we take every tax dollar that Cook County residents pay and invest that money in providing the services that we need to protect our communities locally.”
While proponents of this ordinance insist that it won’t lead to dangerous criminals being released on the streets of Cook County, Montenegro highlighted three violent criminals who have been released as a result of the ordinance.
One, Eduardo Sanchez, was featured in a story by the Sun Times on the ramifications of the ordinance. Sanchez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, ran a red light and then hit a police officer while the police attempted to apprehend him. Sanchez was one of the first inmates released as a result of the ordinance.
Another story from the Daily Herald featured three other criminal illegal aliens also charged with assaulting a police officer. Herlinda Cazares, Carlos Echeverría and Francisco Paredes all were inebriated when they were confronted by police, according to police reports. The confrontation led to the three, all illegal aliens from Mexico, then assaulting the police officers. They were released from prison as a result of the ordinance as well.
While ICE was questioning the wisdom of the ordinance, the Cook County sheriff’s office was questioning the veracity of numbers claiming that holding detainees for ICE costs the County $15 million per year.
According to the ordinance, cost was a major factor: “It costs Cook County approximately $43,000 per day to hold individuals ‘believed to be undocumented’ pursuant to ICE detainers, and Cook County can no longer afford to expend taxpayer funds to incarcerate individuals who are otherwise entitled to their freedom.”
ICE places a detainer on any inmate in a municipal jail that also has an immigration violation and is deemed dangerous by the agency. A detainer lasts for two business days and doesn’t include weekends. That means that a municipal facility like the Cook County Jail could be forced to hold an inmate up to four days beyond their normal criminal adjudication.
The ordinance demands that criminal illegal aliens in Cook County prison be released upon posting bond or finishing their prison sentence instead of being held so that ICE can pick them up unless Cook County and ICE works out an agreement for ICE to pay for the cost of housing them for any extra days.
According to Viviana Martinez, chief of staff to Garcia, a sponsor of the ordinance, the cost figures used numbers their office received from the office of Dart, a Democrat.
But Dart spokesman Steve Patterson says the figures are much less.
“I’m unsure where that figure came from. These detainees are in custody on crimes unrelated to their immigration status, so they would be in jail anyway. The only cost we previously incurred was holding someone one extra day for ICE at $143 a day. Beyond that, we are unaware of any other cost to the county.”
Patterson estimated the annual costs at about $250,000, far short of the $15 million stated in the ordinance.
Patterson said that most of those detained with ICE detainers will remain incarcerated.
“Everyone here is awaiting trial – 90 percent for felony crimes. The only people being released are those who post bond or whose cases are adjudicated by dismissal, conviction and consideration for time served,” he said.
Patterson said that only 45 of about 300 inmates with ICE detainers were released as of the last figures calculated through Wednesday. The office of Tom Dart didn’t issue an official position in favor or opposing the ordinance instead saying the office would enforce any ordinance that becomes law.
Martinez accused Dart’s office of representing something different while the ordinance was being drafted.
“They (the sheriff’s office) represented something different to the board.” Martinez claimed. She said Garcia’s office was led to believe that most of those with ICE detainers would be released as a result of the ordinance.
Not so, said Patterson. “We have always believed the annual cost to taxpayers is about $250,000 a year. We are unaware of any other costs to the county. We made them aware of that before the ordinance was passed.”
Former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo recently wrote in a column on WND that on the national level, the Obama administration already had announced it would use “prosecutorial discretion” to determine which, if any, illegal immigration cases it would pursue.
“The seven-page memo from DHS Assistant Secretary of Immigration and customs Enforcement John Morton says … only serious criminals will be deported, and all others will get a pass.”
He said the solution is for states to crack down on those who employ illegals.