Illinois Governor Moves to Protect Illegal Alien Criminals

By Jessica M. Vaughan on May 6, 2011

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has announced his intention to cancel the state's agreement with ICE to allow law enforcement agencies in his state to share arrest information with ICE under the Secure Communities Program, saying he was "not satisfied" with the results. Quinn expressed concern that ICE has removed a large number of illegal aliens who committed minor crimes in addition to dozens of criminal aliens with convictions for serious felonies.

Let's take a look at those Secure Communities results in Illinois. Twenty-six counties have been using the program since it started there in November 2009. Cook County, which is the largest in Illinois and one of the largest in the country, has refused to participate, declaring itself a sanctuary for illegal aliens. Cook County jail officers routinely release illegal alien offenders, even if ICE has asked for custody. Their policy is, "We do not work with immigration." (See this posting of mine from last year.)

According to ICE statistics, between November 24, 2009, and December 31, 2010, ICE screened the records of nearly 100,000 people who were arrested in those 26 counties. Of those, 6,355 had immigration records. Nearly 400 of them were felons. Of those with an immigration record, ICE decided to charge 1,430 of those arrested for state and local offenses, including 170 of the felons, with immigration violations. ICE has already removed more than 430 of them, including 83 of the felons.

It stands to reason that removing those offenders has made these communities safer – a recent GAO report found that the average incarcerated alien has seven arrests, and has committed an average of 12 offenses, so removing illegal alien criminals is an obvious way to spare future crime victims. Gov. Quinn is upset because, included in the 400-some who have been removed by ICE were 136 illegal aliens who had been arrested, but were not actually convicted of a crime.

ICE unfortunately chooses to describe the un-convicted as "non-criminals", leading those who oppose immigration law enforcement to characterize these individuals as innocent bystanders or victims of the system. This is misleading for several reasons, one being that local prosecutors often will drop charges when they find that ICE is planning to remove the suspect.

At any rate, the "non-criminals" ICE removes all have immigration violations – in some cases a long history of immigration violations. According to a different ICE data set, 72 percent (or 5,217) of the foreign nationals arrested and screened under Secure Communities in participating counties in Illinois were illegal aliens. More than 900 of those were repeat immigration offenders. And 680 were arrested more than once while ICE was trying to remove them.

Meanwhile, every year the correctional systems in Illinois send the federal government a bill for incarcerating the illegal aliens that they shelter from ICE. Last year, the Department of Justice awarded the state $8 million to help offset these costs (see my Memorandum on the subject).

Congress should restructure this repayment program (known as SCAAP) to allow only those jurisdictions that participate in Secure Communities to receive reimbursement. Otherwise, federal taxpayers collectively are subsidizing the sanctuaries, and allowing them to undermine a worthy ICE program that keeps us all safer.

Topics: Illinois