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Cook County Declined More Than 1,000 ICE Detainers in FY19

Law enforcement agencies in Cook County, Illinois, released 1,070 criminal aliens and immigration violators in Fiscal Year 2019, despite requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to notify the agency prior to their release from local custody.

“The most concerning issue about working in an area that refuses to cooperate with ICE is not only that we do not know which criminal aliens are being released from custody, but the public doesn’t know either,” said Henry Lucero, ICE’s acting deputy executive associate director for Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). “Because ICE does not have access to standard Illinois law enforcement databases, it’s difficult to accurately account for all the aliens who have been arrested, released and committed additional crimes. However, with the limited information ICE can verify, we know that police resources are being wasted, more people are being victimized, and it’s a matter of time until something more significant happens.”

ICE lodges detainers on individuals who have been arrested on criminal charges and who ICE has probable cause to believe are removable aliens.  The detainer asks the other law enforcement agency to notify ICE in advance of release and to maintain custody of the alien for a brief period of time so that ICE can take custody of that person in a safe and secure setting upon release from that agency’s custody. However, if law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release serious criminal offenders onto the streets, ICE’s ability to protect public safety and carry out its mission is compromised.

Further, Congress has established no process, requirement, or expectation directing ICE to seek a judicial warrant from already overburdened federal courts before taking custody of an alien on civil immigration violations.

ICA says any local jurisdiction thinking that refusing to cooperate with ICE will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is mistaken. In fact it says local jurisdictions that choose to not cooperate with ICE are more likely to see an increase in ICE enforcement activity, as the agency has no choice but to conduct more at-large arrest operations.

Additionally, once these criminals are out on the street, confirming their whereabouts is often time consuming and resource intensive. Many of the arrest targets are seasoned criminals who are savvy about eluding law enforcement.

The following are just two examples where ICE lodged immigration detainers with Cook County for criminal aliens who were arrested, released and rearrested in FY 2019:

  •  Rasheed Abass, a 50-year-old South African national, was arrested in June for indecent exposure. In July, he was arrested for assault. ICE lodged detainers after both arrests. His current location is unknown.
  • Kennete Acevedo Ortiz, also known as Kennev Vasques-Rugama, a 28-year-old Nicaraguan national, was arrested at least three times in FY 2019. His first arrest was in December 2018 for driving under the influence. Acevedo Ortiz was arrested two additional times in 2019; in February for domestic violence and in March for failure to appear. ICE lodged a detainer following each arrest. He is currently in Illinois Department of Corrections’ custody.

The following criminal aliens were released despite an active immigration detainer or are about to be released without notification to ICE under the county’s sanctuary policies:

  •  On Dec. 3, 2018, ICE lodged a detainer with the Cook County Jail on Rokas Ablacinskas, a 22-year-old citizen of Lithuania, following his arrest for attempted murder, aggravated battery of a victim over the age of 60 and aggravated battery in a public place. Without notifying ICE, the Cook County Jail released Ablacinskas Sept. 17, 2019, and he remains at large in the community.

On, Dec. 10, 2018, ICE lodged a detainer with the Cook County Jail on Isidro Ramirez-Hernandez, a 52-year-old citizen of Mexico, following his arrest for aggravated domestic battery and strangulation. Despite an active immigration detainer, the Cook County Jail released Ramirez-Hernandez March 18, 2019, and he remains at large in the community.

  •  On Aug. 10, 2019, ICE lodged a detainer with the Cook County Jail on Mahmoud Abu Maghli, a 27-year-old citizen of Jordan, following his arrest by the Burbank (Illinois) Police Department for recklessly discharging a firearm. He remains in the Cook County Jail where, under existing sanctuary laws, he will be released into the community.

Greater cooperation is clearly needed to ensure repeat offenders are not put back on the streets.

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