The Illinois Sheriff’s Association and local law enforcement officials held a press conference at the Capitol in Springfield yesterday to push back against a new Pritzker Administration directive about the release of undocumented immigrant felons. The new Department of Corrections policy prohibits local authorities from communicating with ICE officials when they release felons who are undocumented. No reason for the change in policy has been given by the governor’s office.
Under the previous policy, inmates who completed their sentences but were suspected of being in the country illegally were transported to the Pontiac Correctional Center. From there, they were taken to the Kankakee County jail where they were held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pending determination of their status. Kankakee County has a contract with ICE to house the former inmates. Under the new policy, possible undocumented felons are to be released in the communities in which they are incarcerated.
In 2019, there were 223 inmates who completed their sentences in state prison and were transferred to Kankakee and held for immigration authorities. They included 11 people convicted of murder, attempted murder or intent to kill or injure, 19 convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault, 50 convicted of drug offenses other than cannabis, 36 convicted of sexual crimes against minors and 55 convicted of felony traffic offenses, according to the State-Journal Register.
The change in policy allegedly comes from language in the Illinois Trust Act signed by former Governor Bruce Rauner in 2017. The Trust Act prohibits Illinois law enforcement from detaining people based solely on their immigration status. It also limits how much local authorities can cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Many at the conference yesterday said they only learned of the change from dealing with federal authorities and not by the Department of Corrections. Besides law enforcement, many on hand at the conference yesterday were GOP lawmakers opposed to the new directive and were also in opposition to the passage of the 2017 Trust Act.