Springfield, IL – In an effort to create a “firewall” against President Donald Trump’s alleged “attacks on immigrant communities,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has backed out of an agreement to turn illegal immigrants over to immigration officials.
As a result, some violent felons facing deportation are now being released into local communities, the Associated Press reported.
Under Pritzker’s policy change, the Illinois Department of Corrections has stopped cooperating in efforts to transfer custody of inmates who have completed their sentences over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey and Livingston County Sheriff Tony Childress said during a press conference on Tuesday.
“This is just plain wrong,” Sheriff Downey said, according to The Southern Illinoisan. “These convicted felons do not deserve to be given a head start or assistance from the state of Illinois in evading our federal law enforcement partners.”
He noted that releasing convicted felons facing deportation will make communities less safe, WGN reported.
“This is unconscionable. Dangerous. And puts our most vulnerable citizens, our children, at risk,” said Sheriff Childress, who also heads the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association (ISA).
He said he is particularly concerned about convicted sex offenders.
“Individuals with no legal status in this country do not register on the Illinois Sex Offender Registry. And if they flee Illinois, they don’t register themselves anywhere else, either,” Sheriff Childress declared. “We urge Governor Pritzker to reverse this policy.”
The sheriffs said that no one notified them about the policy change, which went into effect without their knowledge on Jan. 30, The Southern Illinoisan reported.
“I am dumbfounded that we had to learn that dangerous felons were simply being released into our county and into our community without notice, coordination or even a courtesy call to local law enforcement,” Sheriff Childress railed.
It is unclear how many illegal aliens have been released into the community so far, The Southern Illinoisan reported.
“Nobody knows where they are,” State Senator Chapin Rose told the paper. “That’s the problem.”
State Senator Jason Barickman said that the governor’s policy change is “radical,” WGN reported.
“It’s alarming to think that because of a change in policy that suddenly these types of individuals might be walking the streets and we might not even be aware of it,” Barickman told the Associated Press.
The senator called on Pritzker to “reverse this reckless policy” in order to ensure the public’s safety.
According to Sheriff Downey, 223 illegal aliens were transferred from the Department of Corrections to ICE detention in 2019, the Associated Press reported.
Eleven had been convicted of murder or attempted murder, 33 were convicted of a crime that involved a weapon, and over four dozen were convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault or abuse, to include offenses against children.
ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations Chicago Director Robert Guadian said that the actual number of illegal aliens poised to benefit from Pritzker’s policy change is much higher.
“Now, about 400 convicted criminals per year — including felons who served time for crimes such as sexually abusing children and homicide – will be released into your community and into mine,” Guadian told the Associated Press. “I can think of no other state that protects convicted felons.”
The director said that the move “put politics ahead of public safety.”
“ICE will now have to make these arrests in the community when they should have been made in the secure confines of a jail,” he added.
So far, the backlash from law enforcement leaders has failed to sway Pritzker.
“The governor has made it abundantly clear that Illinois will be a firewall against the president’s attacks on immigrant communities,” the governor’s spokesperson, Jordan Abudayyeh told the Associated Press.
Abudayyeh said that the policy change is a “pause” in cooperation between the DOC and ICE to allow Pritzker and his staff to review the issue.
Several Republican lawmakers backed the ISA’s concerns about freeing violent illegal aliens into local communities, WGN reported.
As a result, the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus labeled them as “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,” the caucus said in a statement. “This is a bigoted lie and they should be ashamed of themselves.”
On Tuesday, six senators signed off on a letter requesting a joint hearing of the Illinois Senate Criminal Law and the Illinois House Judiciary-Criminal committee to hold a hearing on the issue.
“Time is of the essence,” the letter read. “As elected officials, the safety of our communities is our number one priority.”