Judicial Watch • JW Files Lawsuit against Cook County, Ill. Sheriff for Refusal to Honor ICE Immigration Detainers

JW Files Lawsuit against Cook County, Ill. Sheriff for Refusal to Honor ICE Immigration Detainers

JW Files Lawsuit against Cook County, Ill. Sheriff for Refusal to Honor ICE Immigration Detainers

APRIL 22, 2013

 ICE Calls Refusal to Honor Immigration Detainers or Cooperate with ICE Investigators a “Serious Impediment” to Public Safety

(Chicago, IL) – Judicial Watch announced today that it has filed a lawsuit in Cook County, Ill. Circuit Court challenging Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s refusal to honor ICE immigration detainers or cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in identifying deportable criminal aliens.  Cook County jails have released as many as 1,000 criminal aliens sought by ICE in the past 18 months.

The lawsuit, Brian McCann v. Thomas J. Dart, is brought on behalf of lifetime Cook County resident Brian McCann, whose brother William “Denny” McCann, was run over and killed in June 2011 by an unlawfully present criminal alien who had just completed a two-year term of probation for a 2009 DUI conviction.  The alien, Saul Chavez, was charged with felony aggravated driving under the influence, but was released by Dart from a Cook County jail in November 2011 despite an ICE immigration detainer.  ICE issues detainers when it learns that criminal aliens are being held by state or local law enforcement officials.  The detainers require the criminal aliens be held for an additional 48 hours to enable ICE to take custody of them before they are released.  Chavez is now believed to have fled to Mexico.

Although federal and state law require Dart to honor immigration detainers and cooperate with ICE investigators, he has chosen to follow a September 2011, Cook County Ordinance directing him to refuse ICE detainers and deny federal agents access to Cook County facilities for investigative interviews.  In a January 2012 letter to Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle, ICE Director John Morton wrote, “Of great concern is the serious impediment the Ordinance poses to ICE’s ability to promote public safety through the identification of criminal aliens.”

The Judicial Watch lawsuit argues that Dart’s “failure to carry out his legal duties under both federal and state law is not authorized, excused, or justified by the Ordinance because that Ordinance is preempted by federal law.”

The release of Chavez is one of more than 1,000 instances cited by Judicial Watch where Dart has “regularly and routinely refused to honor immigration detainers issued by ICE, citing the provisions of the Ordinance,” including:

  • “At a public hearing on February 9, 2012 before the Board of Commissioners of Cook County, Defendant testified that, in the five month period between the enactment of the Ordinance on September 7, 2011 and February 9, 2012, Defendant released 346 prisoners in his custody who were the subjects of immigration detainers issued by ICE, and 11 of these persons subsequently committed new offenses.”
  • “By April 24, 2012 ICE had issued 432 immigration detainers to Defendant since the enactment of the Ordinance, but Defendant failed to honor any of the detainers.  According to a letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to [then-]U.S. Senator John Kyl on that date, Defendant’s failure to honor ICE’s immigration detainers had “prevented ICE from considering removal proceedings against all but 38 of these individuals whom ICE had to locate independently and arrest following their release into the community.”
  • “Between April 24, 2012 and March 1, 2013, Defendant received approximately 503 additional immigration detainers issued by ICE, and, on information and belief, has declined to honor any of them, resulting in the release into the community of hundreds of additional prisoners sought by ICE.”

The lawsuit also alleges that despite Dart’s refusal to honor ICE immigration detainers or cooperate with ICE investigators, Cook County applied for and received nearly $2.3 million in State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) funds from the federal government in 2011 and over $1.7 million in SCAAP funds in 2012.  Over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012, Cook County reportedly applied for and received nearly $15 million in SCAAP funds from the federal government.  SCAPP funds are designed to fund the costs that state and local governments incur for holding criminal illegal aliens.

In the lawsuit, McCann asks the Circuit Court to compel Dart to comply with his legal duties to honor ICE detainers and to cooperate with federal immigration officials.  It also asks the Circuit Court to declare the Cook County Ordinance to be preempted by federal law.

“The federal government has determined that certain criminal aliens should not be let loose into the community and that releasing them undermines public safety.  Dart is thumbing his nose at the federal government and replacing federal immigration priorities with Cook County’s own immigration policy.  Releasing these criminal aliens before they can be taken into custody by ICE endangers the public.  Dart is not above the law.  Because the Obama administration hasn’t sued Dart in the president’s backyard, concerned citizens like Brian are bravely stepping up to the plate to protect the public.” stated Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch president.

Judicial Watch’s Illinois lawyer is Christine Svenson of the Svenson Law Offices in Chicago, Ill.

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  • bracholi

    This lawsuit will not make it far… If I recall correctly Sheriffs are the chief law enforcement officials in the country. The second agency I can think of that supersedes federal agents would be the Texas Rangers. In other words… Being the chief law enforcement official at the county level they actually are higher in the chain of command than the Fed agencies… As damn well should be. The question I’d really be tackling here is if this Sheriff is serving his constituency. Remember, Sheriffs are elected and accountable to the electorate. It may be time for impeachment if the county isn’t being served by this man.