Elgin police not changing stance on immigration

 

By Elena Ferrarin

Updated 2/27/2017 6:51 PM
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  • Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, shown here during a meeting with local clergy last year, said police enforce immigration laws only after they arrest gang members, sex offenders and felons.

    Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda, shown here during a meeting with local clergy last year, said police enforce immigration laws only after they arrest gang members, sex offenders and felons. Rick West | Staff Photographer

With nationwide uncertainty regarding federal immigration policies, Elgin police said they will continue not to independently enforce immigration laws with the exception of known gang members, sex offenders and felons.

The city's human relations commission has been tasked with researching what it would mean for Elgin to become a "sanctuary city," Mayor David Kaptain said. Such cities, like Chicago, refuse to hand over undocumented immigrants for deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The commission will report back to the city council, which may or may not take up the discussion, Kaptain said.

Police officers do not ask people about their immigration status during routine investigations and encounters including traffic stops, Chief Jeff Swoboda said.

When someone is arrested, his or her fingerprints are entered into a database, which automatically alerts federal agencies such as ICE. Police comply with ICE requests to hold individuals until immigration officers can pick them up, but often people have been processed and released by the time requests are received, Swoboda said.

Ten people were transferred into ICE custody last year out of 3,515 arrests in Elgin.

Elgin police last year contacted ICE about 13 undocumented immigrants who were arrested and were gang members, sex offenders and felons, Swoboda said.

Federal authorities, not local law enforcement, should enforce immigration laws, Swoboda said, and police want people -- especially victims -- to feel safe when cooperating with investigations.

To that end, police will hold a Spanish-language "Conversation with the Community" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Iglesia Carismatica Puerta De Sion, 19 Center St.

"It's up to to the federal government to control people coming into the country," Kaptain said. "They need to do that and not depend on law enforcement to fix their problems."

Centro de Informacion Executive Director Jaime Garcia said he's satisfied with Elgin's policy.

"There is a segment of the community, like anywhere, that is not welcoming and downright nasty. They don't want anybody but their own kind here," he said. "For the most part the community is welcoming."

The agency has seen a surge of undocumented immigrants seeking information about how to get passports for their U.S.-born children, giving power of attorney for temporary custody of their children to relatives and friends, and determining how to deal with bank accounts, car loans and mortgages if they are deported, Garcia said.

"We have a lot of people coming in very scared ... and afraid that at any moment there's going to be a raid by ICE and people are going to be taken away," he said.

Swoboda said police are not aware of any sweeps by ICE in Elgin. One Elgin man was arrested in a suburban sweep earlier this month, but he was not in Elgin at the time.

Police plan to monitor any sweeps. "If we are seeing they are kicking in doors, we would reconsider whether we would cooperate (with ICE)," he said.

The police department has no plans of entering into an agreement with the federal government that deputizes officers to enforce immigration laws, Swoboda said.

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