Cook County Takes Stand Against Immigration Detainers

In a 10-5 vote, the Cook County Board of Commissioners recently passed an ordinance to release some prisoners from Chicago-area jails regardless of whether the federal government has requested they be held through immigration detainers.

If prisoners have been cleared of charges or posted bail, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency sometimes requests state law enforcement authorities issue an immigration detainer to keep them in custody while their citizenship status is determined. Under the new ordinance, Cook County will disregard immigration detainer requests for misdemeanor criminals unless the federal government agrees to pay for their continued incarceration.

Opponents of the measure said it will lead to the release of dangerous criminals, while proponents cited the high cost of keeping prisoners in jail, which county officials estimate runs to $143 a day. Commissioner Jesus Garcia, a Democrat from Chicago, told the board that with a $315 million state budget shortfall, Illinois cannot afford to spend money to hold prisoners for the federal government, WBEZ reports.

Supporters also said immigration detainers infringe upon prisoners’ constitutional due process protections. This viewpoint is shared by the Heartland Alliance, an immigrant rights group that recently sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to eliminate detainers, Fox News Latino reported.