U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement called out law enforcement agencies in Cook County, Illinois, over the weekend for releasing 1,070 criminal aliens and immigration violators in Fiscal Year 2019, despite repeated requests by ICE to notify the agencies prior to release.
In the news release, ICE blamed the dangerous releases on county officials' refusal to cooperate with the immigration enforcement agency. According to ICE, Cook County — home to Chicago — repeatedly rejected or ignored immigration detainers placed on criminal aliens.
An immigration detainer is a tool used by ICE and other Department of Homeland Security officials to hold individuals who they have probable cause to believe could be removable aliens beyond the time of their anticipated release.
"The most concerning issue about working in an area that refuses to cooperate with ICE is not only that we do not know which criminal aliens are being released from custody, but the public doesn't know either," said Henry Lucero, ICE's acting deputy executive associate director for Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO).
"Because ICE does not have access to standard Illinois law enforcement databases, it's difficult to accurately account for all the aliens who have been arrested, released and committed additional crimes. However, with the limited information ICE can verify, we know that police resources are being wasted, more people are being victimized, and it's a matter of time until something more significant happens."
According to the American Immigration Council, immigration detainers are only requests made by DHS officials; compliance is voluntary.
But ICE argues that "when law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, it undermines ICE's ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission."
ICE noted several specific individuals who were released by Cook County in 2019 in the news release, including a South African national arrested for indecent exposure and assault and a Lithuanian citizen who was arrested for attempted murder and aggravated battery, and a Mexican citizen arrested for aggravated battery and strangulation.
These individuals, along with over 1,000 others, remain at-large in the community.
Another individual from Jordan arrested for recklessly discharging a firearm will soon be released into the community under existing sanctuary laws.
Cook County had previously come under fire from the Justice Department in 2017, when former Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to cut federal funding due to their "sanctuary" immigration policies.