State police officials in Illinois have insisted on blocking most local law enforcement agencies from participating in ICE's Secure Communities program, even in the wake of embarrassing revelations of how Cook County, the state's largest jurisdiction, routinely releases offenders that ICE is trying to remove. At the same time, they seek millions of dollars of payments from the federal government each year for illegal aliens who end up in their jails. I discussed this issue over the weekend on Fox & Friends (video below).
Cook County's negligence came to light earlier this year as a result of an investigation by a local Fox News affiliate in Milwaukee, Wis., after a local woman was killed in an accident caused by an illegal alien hit and run drunk driver. Her husband and son were also injured in the crash. The accused offender, Jorge Dominguez, had a long record of arrests in Burlington and Racine Counties in Wisconsin, located just north of the llinois state line. His prior crimes included felony cocaine possession, battery, obstructing a police officer, disorderly conduct, and spousal abuse. He did not have a driver's license.
It took more than one try, but ICE finally put a detainer on Dominguez after an arrest in Racine County in May 2009. Then, Cook County asked to take custody of Dominguez for an outstanding drug charge. Racine officials advised them that ICE was waiting to remove him, but on July 9, the Cook County jailers let him walk out the door, without telling ICE. The fatal accident occurred over the following Memorial Day weekend, in May of this year. Dominguez is now charged with nine felonies, including vehicular homicide.
This is not the first tragedy caused by criminal aliens who benefit from Cook County's indifference to immigration law enforcement, and it will not be the last. According to local ICE officials, it happens all the time. A Cook County Sheriff's Office spokesman has said flat out, "We do not work with immigration."
Now the Illinois State Police thinks that no other law enforcement agencies should either, and reportedly has moved to block the further deployment of ICE's Secure Communities program in the state. Under Secure Communities, all those booked into local jails have their immigration history checked as part of the standard criminal history check. One-fourth of Illinois counties are already using it. In the first eight months, more than 3,500 foreign nationals were identified among their inmates, and ICE has moved to deport more than 600 of them. (Wisconsin is set to announce this week that it will join Secure Communities.)
Meanwhile, the state of Illinois and Cook County are able to claim millions of dollars in reimbursement for the cost of jailing all of the illegal aliens they catch and release, through the Department of Justice's State Criminal Alien Assistance Program. This year, the state of Illinois collected $5.4 million, and Cook County collected $3.4 million in SCAAP payments. According to figures from 2009, there are at least 3,000, and probably more than 5,000, illegal aliens incarcerated in these two correctional systems. Information on other sanctuary jurisdictions receiving these payments can be found here the recent Center for Immigration Studies Memorandum "Subsidizing Sanctuaries."
Two members of Congress, Rep. Gary Miller of California and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, have proposed legislation to cut off this sanctuary gravy train by re-writing the SCAAP rules so that only those jurisdictions that participate in Secure Communities or the 287(g) program can receive funds.
Meanwhile, the people of Illinois should be asking their state police executives to explain why they are shielding criminal aliens from ICE, how that enhances public safety, and if it comes down to it, if this foolish policy is really worth losing not only the lives of innocent victims, but also $8 million in SCAAP funding.