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Editorial: Cook County right to stop holding inmates for ICE

Sunday, February 12, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

Something shocking is happening:

Cook County Jail is releasing inmates on court-ordered bonds and some of them, rather than go to church and do charity work, are committing more crimes and going back to jail.

Can you imagine?

This is, of course, anything but shocking. People released from jail after posting bond — an amount of money determined by a judge — often break the law again.

But that entirely predictable behavior is being used as an argument for why the county should hold some inmates for an extra 48 hours, even once they post bond, upon request by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Since the county stopped doing so five months ago, 346 suspected illegal immigrants have posted bond and been released, 11 of whom were later arrested for other crimes.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has rightly ended the practice of holding inmates for ICE. She says the county has no constitutional authority to hold inmates without a warrant once they’ve posted bond. And, Preckwinkle and her allies argue, ICE would have no authority to keep an inmate behind bars anyway. All ICE could do is deport an inmate to his home country — often Mexico — which the fellow might prefer to prison anyway.

The issue made headlines early last month because of the case of Saul Chavez, a man who had home addresses in both Chicago and Mexico. Chavez had spent five months in Cook County Jail awaiting trial on a charge of reckless homicide, having allegedly run over a pedestrian with his car. But in November he paid $25,000 to make bond and promptly disappeared. He hasn’t been seen since.

Critics of the county’s policy say Chavez should have been held that extra 48 hours while ICE reviewed his case, but it would have made no difference.

The truth of the matter is that a judge simply set bond too low for a suspect so likely to flee.

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