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Editorial: Preckwinkle takes high road on jail detainees

Thursday, April 12, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

It’s a basic American legal principle: We don’t hold people in prison without a legal reason for doing so. We were impressed this week when Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle adhered to that position even on an issue that, frankly, might cost her more than a few votes. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement wants the county to hold some Cook County Jail inmates for an extra 48 hours, even after they’ve posted bond, because they might be illegal immigrants. ICE, which wants to use that time to check the inmates’ immigration status and pick them up if necessary, even has proposed paying the county’s additional costs for holding the inmates. To request holds on prisoners, ICE issues documents called detainers, but a federal court has ruled that detainers are not warrants, and from a legal standpoint, they amount to nothing more than voluntary requests. Because the county has no legal justification for holding someone who has posted bond, it stopped complying with ICE requests last year. Since then, hundreds of suspected illegal immigrants have posted bond and been released, and some have subsequently been picked up for additional crimes. Preckwinkle is open to meeting with federal officials but insists on respecting constitutional rights. Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin said ICE could solve the whole problem simply by going through official procedures and obtaining warrants for the people they want to pick up. “Warrants aren’t that hard to get in the federal system,” Suffredin said. “ICE is just being lazy.”


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