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County Board To Discuss Policy On Illegal Immigrants In Jail

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Cook County Jail

The Cook County Jail (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Expect heated debate on immigration issues at a Cook County Board hearing Thursday morning.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, as it stands now, an illegal immigrant is let out of the Cook County Jail if he or she posts bond, or if an order is given by a judge.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

There are proposals to change the policy on releasing illegal immigrants, and County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she is against them. She says all federal immigration agents have to do is their jobs.

“There’s nothing that precludes them from picking up people. They know. They’re in our courtrooms all the time. They know who is there who is undocumented,” Preckwinkle said.

She says treating illegal immigrants the same as everyone else under the law is not only a moral issue in court, but also a financial issue.

Prior to September of last year, federal authorities took illegal immigrants to the Cook County Jail upon arresting them, but it was up to the local government to pay for their detention.

“We were paying at least $15 million per year to hold these people for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office, and sometimes they picked them up and sometimes they didn’t,” Preckiwnkle said. “And they never reimbursed us.”

Since a new ordinance was passed in September, illegal immigrants being held on misdemeanor charges are have been released despite federal requests to the contrary. It followed a federal judge’s ruling in Indiana the federal detainers in local jails are voluntary rather than mandatory, according to published reports.

The changed policy was blamed last month for allowing an illegal immigrant to flee the country after he was released on bond in a fatal drunken driving case. Saul Chavez was allowed to bond out of jail on a DUI charge and flee the country, even though U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had issued a detainer request so agents could arrest him for possible deportation.

Among the new proposals is one by county Commissioner Timothy Schneinder (R-15th), under which illegal immigrants would be detained at federal officials’ request, but only in felony cases involving violence or drugs, according to published reports.

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