Illinois sheriffs, Republicans say Pritzker's immigration policy makes communities less safe

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and Republicans lawmakers are sounding off about a new Pritzker administration policy they say is making communities less safe.

The sheriffs say they’ve been directed to stop coordinating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement when undocumented immigrants are released from state custody after completing felony sentences.

The result is there are more dangerous felonies in our communities because of this policy change,” said Mike Downey, Kankakee County Sheriff.

Downey says in 2018, ICE approached him to coordinate the pickup and transfer of individuals whose prison sentence was ending but were suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. The sheriff says last year he transferred 223 former inmates to federal authorities. But in January, Illinois officials cancelled the process.

“This is unconscionable. Dangerous. And puts our most vulnerable citizens, our children, at risk. We urge Governor Pritzker to reverse this policy,” said Tony Childress, Livingston County Sheriff.

The new directive means inmates completing their convictions for felonies would be released from the state correctional facility into local communities, according to Downey.

“No transfer, no pick up by Kankakee County,” claimed Downey. “Just released.”

“This is a radical shift in public policy that puts the people of Illinois at risk,” said State Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington).

“Two hundred and twenty-three people in 2019 that were safely transported and deported to their country of origin because of their violent criminal nature. They are murders, they are rapists, they are child molesters, they are domestic abusers,” said State Rep. Lindsay Parkhurts (R-Kankakee).

The Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus released this sharply worded response calling the Republican rhetoric “racist.”

“While we have made tremendous progress to protect the civil rights of all Illinois residents, the Republican Party is falsely claiming that individuals that are a danger to the public are being released back into communities. This is a bigoted lie and they should be ashamed of themselves.”

The Pritzker administration justifies the policy under the 2017 Illinois Trust Act, signed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. The law prohibits the Department of Corrections from detaining an individual solely on the basis of an immigration detainer.

“The governor has made it abundantly clear that Illinois will be a firewall against the president’s attacks on immigrant communities,” Gov. Pritzker said in a statement.

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