County to debate immigration and sheriff cooperation

2012-01-18T20:30:00Z County to debate immigration and sheriff cooperationBy Gregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
January 18, 2012 8:30 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Three Republican members of the Cook County Board want Sheriff Tom Dart to cooperate fully with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency when it comes to county jail inmates who may also be in violation of federal immigration policies.

Those commissioners — Timothy Schneider, Elizabeth Doody Gorman and Gregg Goslin — object to the current policy in which inmates are released if they are able to post bail for their offenses. Sheriff's police in Cook County do not contact ICE officials to give them a chance to issue a "detainer" that would keep the person in the county jail indefinitely.

The proposal introduced Wednesday calls for the sheriff to notify ICE in cases where a jail inmate with previous felony convictions manages to post bond for their current offense.

The County Board, by a 15-1 vote, sent the proposal to a committee, which is expected to hold hearings in the near future. Schneider said he would like to have Dart and ICE officials testify at that hearing.

He said his goal is to come up with a policy that ultimately will please all people, regardless of their stance on immigration reform and related issues.

Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy, a Crestwood Democrat who represents the south suburbs along the Illinois/Indiana border, said the proposal bothers her. She said she thinks it is wrong that only U.S. citizens arrested in Cook County would get the option of posting bond so they could be free while their cases are pending.

"It's not up to the sheriff to decide who gets to be free if they post bond, and who doesn't," Murphy said.

But Gorman, of southwest suburban Orland Park who was the lone commissioner to vote "no" on sending the measure to committee, said she wishes the proposal as introduced could have been immediately approved by the County Board.

Wednesday's County Board hearing was attended by dozens of immigration rights and Latino activists. Among those activists were members of the Centro Trabajadores Unidos, a workers-rights group affiliated with Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in the South Chicago neighborhood.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has said the real issue at stake is one of judges setting bail too low because they don't have full information. To that end, the County Board gave its approval to a study on bail issuance and what changes might need to be made by Cook County judges.

Schneider said he does not object to a study, but said he does not want it in place of his proposal.

In other business, the County Board deferred action on a measure that would keep suburban courthouses open for limited hours on weekends. The matter will be studied further. It seeks to reverse a Preckwinkle proposal that would close all suburban courthouses on weekends, shifting bond hearings to the Criminal Courts building on Chicago's near Southwest Side to try to save nearly $2 million.

Also, action was deferred to allow more study on a proposal to charge a $4.65 per day parking fee at the suburban courthouses. Murphy, who is sponsoring the measure, wants to exempt disabled people and military veterans from paying the fee.

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