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Daily Journal
     February 27, 2020      #58-58 KDJ

Downey, other sheriffs ask governor to change

Daily Journal staff report

Prior to this year, the Illinois Department of Correction would contact sheriff’s departments when felons were to be released back into communities in the state.

Now the IDOC isn’t required to communicate with state, federal and local law enforcement agencies when an undocumented immigrant is released from a state prison after serving a felony sentence.

That’s because of the Illinois Trust Act, a 2017 law signed by former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. It restricts local law enforcement from handing undocumented immigrants over to federal agencies without a judicial warrant, according to a story from Capitol News Illinois.

IDOC issued the following statement on the matter: “Under the Illinois Trust Act, the Illinois Department of Corrections is prohibited from detaining an individual solely on the basis of an immigration detainer or non-judicial immigration warrant. All incarcerated individuals are released at the expiration of their sentence. We continue to work with the Governor’s Office to review our policies and procedures to ensure the safety of Illinois residents and compliance with state law.”

Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey was among law enforcement voicing their concerns at a Tuesday news conference in Springfield held by the Illinois Sheriffs Association and House and Senate Republicans.

They are urging current Gov. JB Pritzker to reconsider the policy and enable DOC to coordinate with its partners in law enforcement and criminal justice.

Downey said he learned of the change when IDOC informed his department that all scheduled transfers were canceled. It has been reported that Downey was not given a reason. His department notified the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which IDOC contacted about the change.

“We’ve never been told anything as to what the rationale was, which is disappointing,” Downey said.

In 2019, 223 individuals were transferred to the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee after serving time at an IDOC facility for their felony convictions, according to a release from Downey’s office. This occurred via a notification from IDOC at the request of ICE.

Downey said a review of the transfers completed in 2019 by his office found that the individuals requested by ICE and transferred to the correctional facility had been convicted of committing the following crimes in Illinois:

• 36 individuals were found guilty of sexual offenses against minors, including crimes against individuals as young as 5 years old;

• 11 individuals were found guilty of murder, attempted murder or intent to kill or injure;

• 19 individuals were found guilty of predatory criminal sexual assault;

• 33 individuals were found guilty of a criminal offense involving a weapon;

• 50 individuals were found guilty of drug offenses involving a substance other than cannabis; and

• 55 individuals were found guilty of felony-level traffic offenses including aggravated DUI, having a fourth DUI or a DUI resulting in death.

The Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee houses federal prisoners in a financial agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, including those detained by ICE, who are awaiting their immigration cases to be reviewed and adjudicated.

“The State of Illinois is helping convicted felons get a head-start on evading federal authorities who simply want to do their job,” Christian County Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp said.

“The lack of coordination is raising the stakes that a dangerous or violent altercation will occur in our communities between a recently released felon, who knows that immigration authorities are looking for them, and any law enforcement officer. This policy undermines the rule of law, endangers our local communities and puts the lives of our first responders at risk.”

Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst, R-Kankakee, also participated in the press conference.

“This is not a policy that is affecting people that should have amnesty,” she said. “This is a policy where we had 223 people in 2019 that were safely transported and deported to their country of origin because of their violent criminal nature.”

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