A national activist group is joining forces with a Chicago family to file a lawsuit over Cook County's policy on detaining suspected illegal immigrants who are arrested for other crimes.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has been under fire for supporting a 2011 ordinance to defy so-called federal "detainers" on illegal immigrants held in the County Jail, but it was Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart that was named as the defendant in the lawsuit.
Local authorities are supposed to notify immigration if they have bonded out, so they can be picked up by federal agents for deportation proceedings, but Preckwinkle has called that policy unjust because suspects were being held for minor offenses and crimes they were later acquitted of.
Judicial Watch, a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s immigration policies, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Brian McCann, whose brother William McCann was killed in a hit-and-run crash in June 2011.
The suspect in the case, 35-year-old Saul Chavez, is believed to have fled to Mexico after he was one of up to 100 criminal suspects who made bond, and was released back into the community without county officials notifying immigration enforcement officials.
"There's scandal upon scandal here, the most important of which is the threat to public safety through this reckless action," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.
Brian McCann said Monday he had no choice but to file the lawsuit.
"We tried the political process 14 months ago across the street. We were led to believe there would be an amended ordinance, which failed for all sorts of reasons," McCann said.
Cook County Sheriff's officials said in a statement Monday that their department had tried to work on an ordinance that would have allowed law enforcement to "honor ICE detainers for those charged with violent offenses or those that have a number of prior convictions," but was mandated to follow the County Board's decision to decline all ICE detainer requests.
Cook County elected officials cited the high costs of keeping the detainees as another reason for releasing detainees, although federal immigration officials have offered to handle some of the expenses.