Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey recently spoke out against a new policy that releases undocumented immigrants who served felony sentences from state prisons without first communicating the releases to law enforcement entities.
"I’m here to sound the alarm that a recent policy change by the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is making our communities and neighborhoods less safe,” Downey said at a recent news conference.
Prior to the new policy, which sheriffs learned about on Jan. 30, recently released undocumented immigrants would ultimately be transferred to and held at the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee County until the sheriff's office reviewed and adjudicated their immigration case.
"We had 223 people in 2019 that were safely transported and deported to their country of origin because of their violent criminal nature," Rep. Lindsay Parkhurst (R-Kankakee) said at the news conference.
IDOC justified the policy change by referring to a law signed by former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2017.
"Under the Illinois Trust Act, the IDOC is prohibited from detaining an individual solely on the basis of an immigration detainer or non-judicial immigration warrant," IDOC said in a statement. "All incarcerated individuals are released at the expiration of their sentence."
Considering last year's data, this year the new policy could potentially release hundreds of undocumented inmates who can now evade the law enforcement system.
“This is just plain wrong,” Downey said. “These convicted felons do not deserve to be given a head start or assistance from the state of Illinois in evading our federal law enforcement partners.”
Since the change of policy, sheriffs don't know how many of these felons have been released.
“Nobody knows where they are, that’s the problem,” Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) said at the news conference.