McHenry County sheriff, 3 others sue state over immigration law

  • McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim

    McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim

Updated 3/9/2020 5:39 PM

McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim and three fellow sheriffs filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking a court order blocking enforcement of a state law that bars them from working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Saying the Illinois Trust Act leaves them facing "irreparable harm" in the form of lawsuits from both sides of the immigration debate, Prim, Ogle County Sheriff Brian E. VanVickle, Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders and Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey also ask for a court ruling declaring that the state measure is preempted by federal law.


"The Trust Act puts Illinois law enforcement officers in an impossible position by forcing them to choose between obeying federal immigration detainers or complying with the state statute," the suit states.

The suit names Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul as the defendant.

"The Trust Act reflects the values of Illinois residents and serves to build relationships between law enforcement agencies and immigrant communities instead of spreading fear based on immigration status," Raoul spokeswoman Tori Joseph said Monday. "The Attorney General's office maintains that the Trust Act is constitutional."

Primarily at issue are federal "detainers" that require local law enforcement officers like the sheriffs to keep in custody for up to 48 hours people who may be in the country illegally, while federal authorities determine their immigration status.

However, the Trust Act enacted in August 2017 makes it unlawful for law enforcement in Illinois to stop, arrest or detain someone based solely on immigration status.

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"That restriction places the Trust Act in direct conflict with the federal detainer rules," the suit states.

As a result of the conflict, the suit states, the sheriffs face the threat of litigation from the federal government, people who have been detained and advocate groups for immigrants. VanVickle and Snyder are defendants in ongoing litigation alleging they're violating the Trust Act by complying with federal detainers, and Prim previously has faced similar litigation, according to Monday's lawsuit.

In the meantime, laws similar to the Trust Act in California, New Jersey and Washington state have become the target of litigation from the Department of Justice.

The suit argues that because the U.S. Constitution and court precedent grant supremacy to federal law when it conflicts with state law, a federal judge should declare the Trust Act invalid and ban the state from enforcing it.

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