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updated: 9/9/2011 8:54 PM

Feds blast Cook County for releasing criminal aliens

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Eleven people have been released from the Cook County jail who would have otherwise been detained at the behest of federal immigration officials.

The release of the detainees comes after the Cook County Board voted Wednesday to allow Sheriff Tom Dart to ignore detainment requests from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.

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Six of those released are charged with felonies, according to the sheriff's office. Two are accused of assaulting police officers. All of them had either served their sentence or posted bond.

Immigration officials blasted the county board's decision, saying the agency's requests for two-day holds are made to help "ensure that dangerous criminals are not released from prisons or jails and into our communities," said ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer.

"The policy in Cook County has resulted in the release of some aliens from the jails into the surrounding communities without providing ICE an opportunity to assess either their danger to the community or removability," he added. "Even though some aliens may be arrested on minor criminal charges, they may also have more serious criminal backgrounds, which disguise their true danger to society."

Board Commissioner Timothy Schneider, a Bartlett Republican, said he would be soon introducing an amendment to the county's new policy that would only allow Dart to ignore ICE detainment requests for inmates who are either charged or convicted of misdemeanors.

"Our streets are less safe today than they were on Wednesday," Schneider said.

During Wednesday's board vote, commissioners complained that Cook County taxpayers had to foot the bill to cover the cost of holding ICE detainees an extra 48 hours. They argued that amount added up to more than $15 million a year, though sheriff's officials noted that many of those inmates with federal detainment requests were either being held without bond or had such high bond amounts that there was no danger of them being released. ICE can still request the holds, but would have to pay for the incarceration under the new policy.

Other commissioners contend the ICE holds were unconstitutional by denying due process.

"The Constitution gives anyone who's on our soil the full rights of this country," Commissioner Larry Suffredin, an Evanston Democrat, said during Wednesday's debate.

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