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updated: 10/3/2011 11:36 AM

Preckwinkle defends controversial immigrant policy

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  • Toni Preckwinkle

      Toni Preckwinkle

 

In a letter to Hanover Park Mayor Rodney Craig, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle defends a controversial new county ordinance that allows the release of suspected illegal immigrants charged with a crime if they make bail.

Craig blasted the county ordinance last week after three suspected illegal immigrants accused of assaulting two of his village's police officers were released back into the community rather than being detained by immigration officials.

Under the ordinance, passed last month by the Cook County Board, a suspected illegal immigrant charged with anything from a traffic violation to first-degree murder can be freed on bond, even when federal authorities ask to have them detained for possible deportation.

In her letter dated Sept. 27, Preckwinkle thanked Craig for expressing his concern and shared his concerns about police officer safety.

But she added, "I think it is also important to recognize that this is about increasing safety in the community, serving the taxpayers better, and, ultimately, this is about keeping families together."

She said there have been troubling inconsistencies in the current U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies in place at the county jail, calling the new ordinance "a great step forward toward a more suitable, fair policy."

"Moreover, there are troubling inconsistencies in the way bond is set in cases like the one you describe," she added.

The prior policy of detaining suspected illegal immigrants, Preckwinkle wrote, acts as disincentive for the thousands of Cook County immigrants, including legal immigrants, to cooperate with local law enforcement and "places a great strain on our communities."

"That's why my office worked with Commissioner (Jesus) Garcia, the sheriff and the state's attorney to develop an ordinance that will ensure we strengthen public safety while reducing the burden on taxpayers" she wrote.

Craig on Sunday said he finds Preckwinkle's response to his criticism "a little troubling."

"She seems to have a dilemma with supporting law enforcement. That I don't really understand," he said. "They need to take a hard look at what it is they are doing."

Craig said he was puzzled by the reference to "keeping families together."

"(When) elected leaders find themselves in a position to support individuals who are under arrest with serious felonies (it) is a breakdown in our society," he said.

Craig's criticism stems from the July 31 arrest of three men, suspected of being in the country illegally, on charges of aggravated battery, resisting arrest and attempting to disarm a police officer in connection with a confrontation with a pair of police officers.

The suspects were released after posting 10 percent of their $5,000 bail, despite a detainer request by ICE agents.

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