Clueless in Cook County

By W.D. Reasoner, April 18, 2012

A few days ago, my colleague, Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, sent me a news article from The Chicago Tribune.

The article, originally published October 30, 2011, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and is quite interesting. It lays out the phenomenon of individuals — aliens, all — who have fled from serious criminal charges in the metropolitan Chicago area to return to their home country of Mexico, where they live openly despite the existence of felony warrants against them and apparently without fear of being located or extradited. It's a troubling indictment of an apparently broken system where U.S. state, local, and federal officers don't seem to be doing much to bring these individuals back to face trial.

But, as Vaughan notes, it's only half the story. Where is the follow-up article on how it is that these individuals were released from jail to begin with, allowing them to flee? What steps have been taken, or are being taken, in Chicago and Cook County by police, sheriff's jailers, and prosecutors to stem this flow?

Let's go back to the Tribune article for a moment, which focuses on the story of one individual, Abraham Caudel, an accused pedophile who had the audacity to permit use of his photo and to protest his innocence — from the safety of Mexico, where he's been a fugitive from U.S. justice for quite some time. Ironic and outrageous, isn't it? Now shoot forward in time to see what's been done to fix this outrage and ensure it never happens again. Well ... nothing. In fact, worse than nothing. Since then, the Cook County Board of Commissioners has passed into law an ordinance prohibiting the county sheriff from honoring detainers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), though even prior to the ordinance the sheriff in his wisdom had mostly ceased to honor them anyway. Those detainers, or "holds", would have prevented aliens such as Caudel from posting bond and gaining liberty long enough to flee.

Vaughan, I, and others at the Center have written extensively on officials in Cook County and other locales who exercise similar practices. Such officials have hardly wrapped themselves in glory with their short-sighted policies, which have put the members of their community at serious risk. See, for example, "Cook County Pressured to Reverse Sanctuary Policy", "The Alternative to Immigration Detention: Fugitives", "Looking to One's Own Backyard", and "Which Way, New York? Will Feds Tolerate Local Interference or Assert Their Authority?".

But the federal government has done no better. Federal officials at the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice have steadfastly refused to file suit in Cook County or elsewhere to save the community from itself, so to speak; preferring instead to haggle like flea market vendors with the Board of Commissioners and Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to gain a foothold so that they can perform their federal responsibilities. This is sadly ironic, given the plethora of lawsuits the federal government has filed elsewhere to prevent states and localities from helping it live up to its statutorily mandated immigration enforcement authorities.

And what have they gotten for their troubles? Take a look at the myopic and condescending response most recently penned by Cook County Commission President Toni Preckwinkle to a proposal from John Morton, Director of ICE. To top it all off, Ms. Preckwinkle makes reference to Cook County taxpayers and the burden they carry for incarcerating illegal aliens — at the same time the county government makes it impossible for ICE to do its job.

Note to Ms. Preckwinkle: What does it cost the taxpayers to carry open felony cases on the books of the police and county criminal courts for years on end because you and other like-minded officials have decided it is more important to impede the federal government than attend to your community? And putting aside money, what are the costs to victims and their families who cannot count on their day in court, or to the members of the community who lose faith in your justice system because alien fugitives are permitted to hemorrhage out of it on a routine basis?

Note to the Board of Commissioners and other elected officials such as the sheriff: You were elected to serve and protect your constituency — not illegal aliens arrested for felonies who have no right to be in the country, let alone vote in elections or reside in your community. Which part of that don't you get?