WBEZ | background checks http://www.wbez.org/tags/background-checks Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Senators seek deal on gun-sale background checks http://www.wbez.org/news/senators-seek-deal-gun-sale-background-checks-105428 <p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; A cornerstone of President Barack Obama&#39;s drive to check gun violence is gathering bipartisan steam as four senators, including two of the National Rifle Association&#39;s congressional champions, privately seek compromise on requiring far more firearms purchasers to undergo background checks.</p><p>The talks are being held even as Obama&#39;s call to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, the two other major pillars of his plan, are hitting rough waters on Capitol Hill. An agreement among the four senators to expand background checks would add significant impetus to that high-profile proposal by getting the endorsement of a group that ranges from one of the Senate&#39;s most liberal Democrats to one of its most conservative Republicans.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ll get something, I hope. I&#39;m praying for it,&quot; said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., one of the participants.</p><p>Manchin, a moderate Democrat, is an NRA member who aired a 2010 campaign ad in which he literally shot a hole through Democratic environmental legislation that he pledged to oppose.</p><p>Also involved is Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., another NRA member with a strong conservative record but occasional maverick impulses; No. 3 Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York, a liberal; and moderate GOP Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.</p><p>Background checks are required only for sales by the nation&#39;s 55,000 federally licensed gun dealers, but not for private purchases like those at gun shows, online or in person. There are few indisputable, up-to-date statistics on how many guns change hands without background checks, but a respected study using 1990s data estimated that 30 percent to 40 percent of gun transactions fit into that category.</p><p>The senators&#39; talks have included discussions about how to encourage states to make more mental health data available to the federal system for checking gun buyers&#39; records, according to people who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to describe the private negotiations. They are also considering potential exemptions to expanded background check requirements, including transactions involving relatives or people with licenses to carry concealed weapons</p><p>People involved in the talks would share little about their substance. In one of the few public remarks about the talks by participants, Schumer said last week that the talks have been productive and said the package they were seeking &quot;will not limit your ability to borrow your Uncle Willie&#39;s hunting rifle or share a gun with your friend at a shooting range.&quot;</p><p>Congress has been focusing on guns since the December massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wants his panel to approve gun control legislation in the next few weeks and has voiced strong support for universal background checks for firearms purchases.</p><p>While an expansion of background checks is expected to be a key part of any gun control bill Leahy produces, a version of that provision with bipartisan support could give the entire package a boost.</p><p>It is likely that any gun-control bill will need 60 votes to pass the 100-member Senate. Democrats have 55 votes, including two Democratic-leaning independents.</p><p>Leaders of the GOP-run House are planning to see what, if anything, the Senate passes before moving on gun legislation. Strategists believe that a measure that passes the Senate with clear bipartisan support could pressure the House to act.</p><p>The political impact that the four senators could have by reaching agreement stems largely from who they are.</p><p>If Coburn embraces an agreement, that could help win over other conservative Republicans at a time when the GOP is responding to its White House and congressional election losses of last November by trying to broaden its national appeal.</p><p>In an Associated Press-GfK Poll last month, requiring more background checks got overwhelming public support, compared to just over half who backed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.</p><p>&quot;The whole goal is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals,&quot; Coburn said in a brief interview.</p><p>Manchin&#39;s support could make it easier to win backing from other Democratic senators from GOP-leaning states, many of whom face re-election next year and who have been leery of embracing Obama&#39;s proposals.</p><p>&quot;If the language is meaningful, it would be obviously a huge step,&quot; said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, which represents child welfare, religious and other groups favoring gun curbs. &quot;To have someone like Coburn, who&#39;s voted consistently with the gun lobby, to come out and endorse a meaningful background check would be very helpful.&quot;</p><p>Schumer and Kirk each have &quot;F&#39;&#39; scores from the NRA for their voting records in Congress, while Coburn and Manchin have &quot;A&#39;&#39; ratings.</p><p>Though widened background checks is given the strongest chance for enactment of Obama&#39;s major proposals, it is opposed by the NRA and many congressional Republicans, who consider it intrusive and unworkable for a system they say already has flaws.</p><p>&quot;My problem with background checks is you&#39;re never going to get criminals to go through background checks,&quot; Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, told the Senate Judiciary Committee at its gun control hearing last week.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s the way reductions in liberty occur, when you start saying people have to sign up for something and they have a database where they know exactly who&#39;s who,&quot; Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in an interview.</p><p>Gun control supporters note that federal laws specifically forbid the national background check system from being used as a registry of gun owners. Much of the information the system collects must be destroyed within a day.</p><p>NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam declined to comment on the senators&#39; discussions.</p><p>According to Justice Department estimates, the federal and state governments ran 108 million background checks of firearms sales between 1994 when the requirement became law and 2009. Of those, 1.9 million &mdash; almost 2 percent &mdash; were denied, usually because would-be purchasers had criminal records.</p><p>People legally judged to be &quot;mentally defective&quot; are among those blocked by federal law from firearms purchases. States are supposed to make mental health records available to the federal background check system and receive more generous Justice Department grants if they do, but many provide little or no such data because of privacy concerns or antiquated record-keeping systems.</p><p>People following the discussions say the talks have touched on:</p><p>&mdash;The types of family relatives who would be allowed to give guns to each other without a background check.</p><p>&mdash;Possibly exempting sales in remote areas.</p><p>&mdash;Whether to help some veterans who sought treatment for traumatic stress disorder &mdash; now often barred from getting firearms &mdash; become eligible to do so.</p></p> Fri, 08 Feb 2013 09:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/senators-seek-deal-gun-sale-background-checks-105428 Immigration enforcement program faces novel suit http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration-enforcement-program-faces-novel-suit-100646 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ColoradoFingerprinting.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 214px; height: 250px; " title="A sheriff’s deputy in Centennial, Colo., prepares to fingerprint a suspect as part of booking into the Arapahoe County Justice Center. Secure Communities runs the fingerprints of everyone booked into jail against immigration records. (AP File/Chris Schneider)" />We&rsquo;ve been hearing a lot about how immigration enforcement intersects with local law enforcement. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an Arizona requirement that police officers check the immigration status of people they stop for other reasons. Now we&rsquo;ll hear from our West Side bureau about a suburban Chicago man who got tangled up with immigration enforcement after a drug arrest. He has filed a suit that offers a novel challenge to one of President Obama&rsquo;s key immigration-enforcement programs.</p><p>MITCHELL: There&rsquo;s no doubt James Makowski of Clarendan Hills did something illegal. In 2010 police caught him with heroin and he pleaded guilty to that. A judge approved him for a state-run boot camp. But that&rsquo;s not where Makowski ended up.</p><p>MAKOWSKI: I thought I would be home in 120 days but -- then after I get a note back from a counselor, after I&rsquo;d asked about when I&rsquo;d be shipping to boot camp -- she said that I was ineligible for boot camp due to an immigration detainer.</p><p>MITCHELL: That&rsquo;s basically a flag in his file from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency known as ICE. So . . .</p><p>MAKOWSKI: I got sent to the maximum-security penitentiary in Pontiac.</p><p>MITCHELL: And he stayed for about two months. How did this happen? It comes down to an ICE program called Secure Communities. In that program, FBI fingerprint data about people booked at local jails get run against immigration data. If a check yields a match, ICE can issue one of its detainers. The point is to catch people in the criminal justice system who are not authorized to be in the U.S. and eventually deport them. The thing is, Makowski had every right to be in the country.</p><p>MAKOWSKI: I feel like I got punished twice for what I did in my past.</p><p>MITCHELL: Makowski&rsquo;s detention was based on faulty information. He was born in India and adopted by a U.S. family. When he was 1, the government granted him citizenship. But &mdash; at age 22, when he got picked up on the heroin charge &mdash; the feds didn&rsquo;t have their records right. So, Makowski stayed in that maximum-security pen before authorities straightened things out and let him into the boot camp. On Tuesday, Makowski filed a federal suit over all this. Defendants include top officials at the FBI, ICE and their parent departments. Makowski claims that when the FBI shared data with ICE &mdash; and when ICE didn&rsquo;t keep track of his citizenship status &mdash; they violated his rights under the U.S. Privacy Act. Legal experts say the suit appears to be the first challenge to Secure Communities under that law. Makowski&rsquo;s attorneys include Mark Fleming of the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center.</p><p>FLEMING: There [are] simple ways in which both the FBI and ICE could be in compliance with the Privacy Act.</p><p>MITCHELL: Fleming says ICE could, for example, interview suspected immigration violators before slapping detainers on them.</p><p>FLEMING: Unfortunately, the system does not provide those basic checks right now and, so, there are many more U.S. citizens that are getting wrapped up into this.</p><p>MITCHELL: Officials at ICE and the departments of Justice and Homeland Security did not answer our questions about the suit Tuesday (see&nbsp;<a href="#note">UPDATE</a>). An FBI spokesman said his agency does not comment about pending litigation outside the courtroom. But a supporter of tougher immigration controls doubts that the Privacy Act protects U.S. citizens from what Makowski endured. Jessica Vaughan directs policy studies for a Washington group called the Center for Immigration Studies. Vaughan says the FBI and ICE share the fingerprint information for legitimate law-enforcement purposes.</p><p>VAUGHAN: Mistakes can be made. But that is not necessarily a reason to throw out the whole system.</p><p>MITCHELL: Vaughan says it&rsquo;s important to keep something else in mind.</p><p><a name="note"></a></p><p>VAUGHAN: The individual who&rsquo;s filing this suit would not have had anything to worry about had he not been convicted of a serious crime to begin with. He was convicted of a drug crime.</p><p>MITCHELL: Convicted he was. But Makowski says no one should have to serve extra time behind bars because of errors in immigration records.</p><p><em>After a deadline for Tuesday&rsquo;s broadcast of this story, ICE provided this statement: &ldquo;The information-sharing partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI serves as the cornerstone of Secure Communities, and fulfills a mandate required by federal law. This information sharing does not violate the Privacy Act. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is evaluating the allegations contained in the lawsuit; however, we do not comment on pending litigation.&rdquo;</em></p><p><em>The ICE statement continues: &ldquo;In December ICE announced a new detainer form and the launch of a toll-free hotline &mdash; (855) 448-6903 &mdash; that detained individuals can call if they believe they may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime. The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by ICE personnel at the Law Enforcement Support Center. Translation services are available in several languages from 7 a.m. until midnight (Eastern), seven days a week. ICE personnel collect information from the individual and refer it to the relevant ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Field Office for immediate action.&rdquo;</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 04 Jul 2012 10:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration-enforcement-program-faces-novel-suit-100646 Quinn hits back against immigration checks http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-hits-back-against-immigration-checks-91065 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-26/deportation protest_flickr_presenteorg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is trying to throw another wrench into a key immigration-enforcement program of President Obama’s administration, saying it ensnares too many people and erodes trust in local police.<br> <br> An <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/Quinn_office_to_Morton.pdf">August 18 letter</a> from the governor’s office to John Morton, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, hints about a possible legal challenge and asks the federal agency to contact all 26 Illinois counties that have agreed to participate in the program, called Secure Communities, to confirm they still want to take part.<br> <br> “This is the least that ICE can do,” says the letter, signed by John Schomberg, Quinn’s general counsel. “These counties signed up, along with the state, for a Secure Communities that is far different from the program” ICE first presented.</p><p>The Obama administration says the program helps focus immigration enforcement on repeat immigration violators and dangerous criminals, such as murderers and kidnappers.</p><p>ICE reports that Secure Communities has led to the deportation of more than 86,000 convicted criminals. Data from the agency show that about half of those immigrants were convicted of misdemeanors, not felonies.<br> <br> The program has led to the deportation of another 34,000 people not convicted of any crime. Voicing concerns about them, Quinn withdrew Illinois from Secure Communities in May. New York and Massachusetts followed with similar steps.<br> <br> But an August 5 letter from Morton to governors says states no longer have any choice and that Secure Communities will extend to all local law-enforcement jurisdictions in the United States by 2013. An addendum to the letter describes changes in the program. Those include the elimination of a state role in conveying data for the fingerprints.</p><div><hr style="border-width: initial; border-color: initial; "><blockquote><p><span style="font-family: georgia, serif; "><span style="font-size: 26px; "><em>"These counties signed up, along with the state, for a Secure Communities that is far different from the program"&nbsp;</em></span></span></p></blockquote><p><em>--John Schomberg, Quinn’s general counsel</em></p><hr style="border-width: initial; border-color: initial; "><p>Mark Fleming, an attorney with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, says ICE could end up in court if Secure Communities lacks the consent of the local jurisdictions. “The governor’s office may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge,” Fleming says.</p></div><p>Fleming points to 1990s rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that the 10th Amendment bars Congress from compelling state and local governments to administer federal regulations.<br> <br> Asked whether Illinois officials are cooking up a lawsuit, a Quinn spokeswoman refers to Schomberg’s letter, which says the governor’s office “will continue to monitor and evaluate” Secure Communities and “consider all of the state’s options.”<br> <br> ICE representatives did not respond to WBEZ requests for comment on whether Secure Communities violates the 10th Amendment.<br> <br> The Obama administration lately has downplayed agreements through which it first brought state and local governments into the federal initiative. “We wanted to work with the locals and let them know about the program,” says Jon Gurule, an ICE official who helped set up Secure Communities.<br> <br> “But, from the operational side, it’s federal information sharing between two federal agencies,” Gurule adds, referring to ICE and the FBI. “And it’s congressionally mandated.”<br> <br> If ICE checks in with the Illinois counties, as the Illinois letter asks, the federal agency would find some with second thoughts about joining Secure Communities. “If they honor the governor’s request, I would not want to partake in it,” says Patrick Perez, sheriff of west suburban Kane County, part of the program since 2009.<br> <br> “The program has not turned out to be what it was supposed to be,” Perez says, pointing to the deportation of non-criminals. “People in the Hispanic community have become very reticent to contact police if they’re victims of crime because they’re fearful that . . . they will be deported.”<br> <br> The federal initiative also has defenders. “My life has been destroyed by all of this cheap, foreign scab labor,” says a 56-year-old network engineer in Chicago, blaming immigrants for his unemployment and asking that his name not be published because he’s job hunting. “Whether it’s illegal aliens or foreign legal workers, they’re hurting American citizens.”<br> <br> “Secure Communities removes the criminals,” he says, “and that’s a start.”</p></p> Thu, 25 Aug 2011 22:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-hits-back-against-immigration-checks-91065 County commissioner pulls bill to free inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/county-commissioner-pulls-bill-free-inmates-wanted-ice-89730 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-27/Garcia.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Legislation that would have required Cook County to free some jail inmates wanted by immigration authorities is dead for now.<br> <br> Commissioner Jesús García, D-Chicago, withdrew his bill at Wednesday’s County Board meeting. “We want to rethink it,” he said afterwards.<br> <br> The measure would have made the county the nation’s largest jurisdiction to end blanket compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers. Those are requests by the federal agency for local jails to keep some inmates 48 hours beyond what their criminal cases require.<br> <br> García’s bill would have ended the county’s compliance unless the inmate had been convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors and unless the county got reimbursed.<br> <br> Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she would back releasing some inmates wanted by ICE but wants to hear from State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. “We hope to have a written opinion from the state’s attorney that will allow us to proceed,” she said after the board meeting.<br> <br> A letter from Alvarez to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office back in 2009 said the jail “must comply with any ICE detainers.”<br> <br> But ICE officials in recent months have said there is no legal requirement for jails to comply. Dart told WBEZ this month he planned to ask Alvarez for an updated opinion.<br> <br> Alvarez’s office hasn’t answered WBEZ’s questions about whether she will revisit that opinion.</p></p> Wed, 27 Jul 2011 21:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/county-commissioner-pulls-bill-free-inmates-wanted-ice-89730 Bill would free Cook County inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/bill-would-free-cook-county-inmates-wanted-ice-89634 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-26/cook-County-Jail-2_Flickr_Zol87.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Cook County commissioner is quietly proposing an ordinance that would require the county’s massive jail to release some inmates wanted by immigration authorities.</p><p>Sponsored by Jesús García, D-Chicago, the measure would prohibit the jail from holding inmates based on an Immigration and Customs Enforcement request unless they have been convicted of a felony or two misdemeanors, and unless the county gets reimbursed.</p><p>The legislation’s preamble says complying with the ICE requests, known as detainers, “places a great strain on our communities by eroding the public trust that local law enforcement depends on to secure the accurate reporting of criminal activity and to prevent and solve crimes.”</p><p>The jail now holds detainees requested by ICE for up to 48 hours after their criminal cases would allow them to walk free. Sheriff Tom Dart’s office says the jail turns over about a half dozen inmates to the federal agency each business day.</p><p>Dart this month <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233">told WBEZ his staff was exploring legal options</a> for releasing some of these inmates. The sheriff said his review began after he noticed that San Francisco County Sheriff Michael Hennessey had ordered his department to quit honoring certain ICE detainers beginning June 1.</p><p>If Dart’s office follows Hennessey’s path or if García’s legislation wins approval, Cook County could become the nation’s largest local jurisdiction to halt blanket compliance with ICE holds.</p><p>“Cook County would be a counter pole to Arizona’s Maricopa County,” says Chris Newman, general counsel of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a Los Angeles-based group that opposes involving local authorities in immigration enforcement.</p><p>García’s office didn’t return WBEZ calls or messages about his legislation. The offices of Sheriff Dart and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said they had seen the bill but declined to say whether they supported it.</p><p>A spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said late Tuesday her office had not been consulted about García’s proposal. A 2009 letter from Alvarez to Dart’s office said federal law required the sheriff to comply with “any ICE detainers.”</p><p>In recent months, however, immigration authorities have acknowledged that local jails do not have to comply with the detainers.</p><p>ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa, asked for comment about García’s legislation, sent a statement calling the detainers “critical” for deporting “criminal aliens and others who have no legal right to remain in the United States.”</p><p>“Individuals arrested for misdemeanors may ultimately be identified as recidivist offenders with multiple prior arrests, in addition to being in violation of U.S. immigration law,” the ICE statement said. “These individuals may have been deported before or have outstanding orders of removal.” Jurisdictions that ignore immigration detainers would be responsible for “possible public safety risks,” the statement added.</p><p>García’s proposal is on the county board’s agenda for Wednesday morning. Possible steps by commissioners include referring the measure to committee or approving it immediately.</p></p> Tue, 26 Jul 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/bill-would-free-cook-county-inmates-wanted-ice-89634 Dart slammed for mulling release of inmates wanted by ICE http://www.wbez.org/story/dart-slammed-mulling-release-inmates-wanted-ice-89317 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-18/Dart-Craigslist-M-Spencer-JPG.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Supporters of tougher immigration enforcement are criticizing Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for seeking legal options enabling the county’s massive jail to quit holding some inmates wanted for immigration violations.<br> <br> Dart <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233">told WBEZ</a> last week his department was looking for a way to end its blanket compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests that detainees be held 48 hours beyond what their local criminal cases require. The holds, financed by the county, help ICE take custody and begin deportation proceedings. Dart says the jail’s role erodes community trust in local law enforcement, discouraging witnesses and even victims from cooperating with police.<br> <br> Ira Mehlman, spokesman of a Washington-based pro-enforcement group called the Federation for American Immigration Reform, is not convinced. “This idea that turning people over to immigration authorities — who have already been picked up on suspicion of some crime — is somehow going to cause this massive chill just doesn’t hold water,” says Mehlman, who accuses Dart of “putting politics ahead of community safety.”<br> <br> The WBEZ report has also led to a torrent of comments on the station’s Web site. The visitors have labeled Dart everything from a “fool” to a “traitor.”<br> <br> But Dart’s review is also winning praise. “Sheriffs throughout the country are revisiting their policies with respect to the ICE holds,” says Fred Tsao, policy director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “The criminal justice system already distinguishes between people who can be released with no threat to public safety and those who cannot.”<br> <br> San Francisco County Sheriff Michael Hennessey on June 1 <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/San_Francisco_policy_on_ICE_detainers.pdf">quit honoring</a> ICE requests for holds of inmates arrested for certain traffic infractions and other low-level offenses if a background check finds no felony convictions and meets other requirements. Since then, his department has released four inmates with ICE detainers, according to Eileen Hirst, the sheriff’s chief of staff.<br> <br> ICE officials acknowledge that local jails have no legal requirement to comply with the detainer requests.</p></p> Mon, 18 Jul 2011 18:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/dart-slammed-mulling-release-inmates-wanted-ice-89317 Sheriff mulls freeing inmates wanted on immigration charges http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/cityroom_20090908_tarnold_9361_Sher_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>On any given day, the Cook County Jail holds hundreds of inmates picked up on criminal charges who also happen to be wanted for an immigration violation. Sheriff Tom Dart’s office keeps them up to 48 hours beyond when the criminal cases would allow them out. That’s to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency known as ICE, to take them into deportation proceedings. Now Dart tells WBEZ he’s reconsidering that policy because it could be compromising public safety. We report from our West Side bureau.</p><p><br> SOUND: Keys open a jail door.<br> <br> Beneath the Cook County criminal courthouse, one jailer pulls out keys and unlocks a door. Another, Officer Carmelo Santiago, leads the way.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: We’re going through this tunnel that connects us from the courthouse to the jail. This way is where the detainee is going to be coming.<br> <br> We step around crusts of sandwiches that the day’s new arrivals got for lunch.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: And this is the receiving process.<br> <br> SOUND: Entering the receiving area.<br> <br> The smell of unwashed feet wafts from chain-link pens full of inmates who’re waiting to be processed. Santiago shows me the paperwork of a Mexican national busted last night in Chicago.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: This individual was arrested for driving on a revoked or suspended license on a DUI.<br> <br> A lot of immigrants who drink and drive end up in this jail. That’s because Illinois considers DUI a felony when the motorist lacks a valid driver’s license. And the state doesn’t allow any undocumented immigrant to get one.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: He was issued a bond from the court for $15,000.<br> <br> Santiago points out that the defendant could walk free for just $1,500. Except, his file shows something else.<br> <br> SANTIAGO: This specific individual has a detainer that was placed on him through immigration.<br> <br> MITCHELL: This man can post bond or not [and] he’s going to end up in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement?<br> <br> SANTIAGO: That is correct.<br> <br> Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says he doesn’t like holding on to inmates like this one for ICE to take away. He says these holds make it harder for local police to fight crime. Residents see cops and start thinking about the threat of deportation — the threat to the criminals, maybe even to themselves.<br> <br> DART: It does not lend itself to a sense of community where people will gladly come to you with information about crimes, get involved as a witness, even come forward as a victim, frankly.<br> <br> Over the years Dart has taken steps to reduce the jail’s role in immigration enforcement. The sheriff’s office says it no longer calls ICE with information about inmates. The sheriff no longer allows ICE agents in holding cells near bond courtrooms. The jail has put up big signs — in English, Spanish and Polish — that tell new inmates they have no obligation to answer questions about immigration status. But Dart says something has him in a bind. Every day ICE requests that the jail hold certain inmates two extra days so the agency can put the detainees into deportation proceedings. The jail ends up turning over about a half-dozen inmates to ICE each day. Two years ago, Dart quietly sought some legal advice from Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office.<br> <br> DART: The opinion was really unambiguous. It said I had to comply with the detainer. So, when the detainer was placed on somebody, I had to give the ICE officers 48 hours to come and pick somebody up and that it was not in my discretion.<br> <br> MITCHELL: Could you ignore the state’s attorney’s opinion?<br> <br> DART: Then I open myself up personally to civil liability.<br> <br> Dart says that could include damages for someone hurt by a released inmate or the legal defense if an anti-immigrant group filed suit . . .<br> <br> DART: . . . which is not something that myself or my five children signed up to do. And I open our office up to unbelievable amounts of liability.<br> <br> But some immigrant advocates are pressing Dart about the ICE detainers. They confronted a few of his top aides at a meeting a few weeks ago. Reverend Walter Coleman got to question a sheriff’s attorney, Patricia Horne.<br> <br> HORNE: It’s a legal document just like an arrest warrant, which we, under law, have to recognize.<br> <br> COLEMAN: Under what law?<br> <br> HORNE: Well, in this case, under federal law.<br> <br> COLEMAN: There is no federal law. You cannot cite me the statute or the chapter or the section. You know that that’s the truth and we will not sit here and be lied to like this.<br> <br> It turns out ICE isn’t citing a statute either. Lately federal officials have acknowledged that local jails don’t have to comply with immigration detainer requests. Last month the San Francisco County Sheriff’s Department quit honoring the requests for certain inmates. Here in Cook County, Sheriff Dart says that’s got him wondering again whether he has to comply with the 48-hour holds. He tells me he’s planning to ask the State’s Attorney’s Office for an updated opinion. He could do that quietly again and most people wouldn’t even know. But Dart doesn’t always operate quietly. You might remember that, twice over the last three years, the sheriff has ordered his deputies to suspend enforcement of foreclosure evictions.<br> <br> MITCHELL: You run one of the country’s biggest jails. Would you really be willing to become a national lightening rod on the issue of immigration enforcement?<br> <br> DART: Well, there is this notion of justice that we’ve always felt very strongly about in this office. And whether it’s dealing with people who we felt were being dispossessed of their houses in the mortgage crisis. So we stopped. It’s the same issue here, where we are attempting to do what is right and just.<br> <br> But Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Greg Palmore has a warning for any sheriff who lets inmates walk free despite an immigration hold.<br> <br> PALMORE: Though ICE has not sought to compel compliance through legal proceedings, jurisdictions who ignore detainers bear the risk of allowing that individual back into the public domain before they were thoroughly vetted to insure that this individual doesn’t have anything outstanding that warrants us to move further in that particular case.<br> <br> Sheriff Dart acknowledges there could be a downside to ignoring immigration detainer requests. Let’s say ICE knows the inmate arrived in the country under an alias or is violent — and the information didn’t appear in the jail’s background check. But Dart says letting some immigrants out of jail even though ICE wants them could be worth the risk. It might help remove the deportation issue from everyday policing. The sheriff says that could make streets in Cook County safer.</p></p> Fri, 15 Jul 2011 23:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-mulls-freeing-inmates-wanted-immigration-charges-89233