Sheriffs sue Illinois over law on immigrant prisoners

March 14, 2020 GMT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A group of sheriffs is suing Illinois to halt a 2017 law that bans police from detaining people based on their immigration status without a court-ordered warrant.

The lawsuit states that the Illinois Trust Act interferes with law enforcement’s ability to respond to detainers issued by the U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement. The detainers require police to keep custody of prisoners who are in the U.S. illegally for up to two days.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by sheriffs from McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson and Kankakee counties. It names Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul as a defendant.

“This language requires Illinois law enforcement officers to comply with an immigration detainer they receive from those federal officers tasked with carrying out national immigration policy,” the lawsuit states. “Immigration detainers notify law enforcement officials that DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) has found probable cause that the person subject to the request is a removable alien.”

The sheriffs said the act has exposed them and their offices to litigation over the years, as three of the four have been sued for allegedly violating the statute.

The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association said last month that some violent felons who had faced deportation are instead being released after their prison terms end as a result of a policy change by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration.

The sheriffs’ concerns came just days after President Donald Trump’s administration announced the unusual step of dispatching Customs and Border Patrol Agents to Chicago and other “sanctuary cities” that have set up impediments to enforcement.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Immigrant Justice Center called the lawsuit “a thinly veiled attempt to justify ongoing violations of the law.”

“Under the Trust Act, Illinois simply requires that federal immigration officials provide a judicial warrant, like would be expected for any other arrest, before local law enforcement are permitted to honor an immigration detainer,” the groups said. “Nothing about the Trust Act is unconstitutional. It simply doesn’t comport with the way in which these four sheriffs want to conduct their work. Law enforcement in Illinois cannot pick and choose which laws they follow and which they do not.”

The Trust Act, which the General Assembly approved, was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Critics argued that it turned Illinois into a sanctuary state, which Rauner and other supporters denied.