Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to ensure that as many illegal immigrants who are convicted felons as possible remain in the state.
That sounds crazy, right? But that’s the bottom-line impact of a new policy the governor recently implemented at the Illinois Department of Corrections and is actively defending.
“As Donald Trump continues to advance policies that tear apart families and terrorize children, the Pritzker administration is committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect immigrant families in Illinois,” a Pritzker spokeswoman said in response to complaints about the new policy made by the sheriffs of Kankakee and Livingston counties.
Pritzker’s concerns for illegal-immigrant families in Illinois may be considered commendable in some circles. But his disinterest in or disdain for public safety raises serious questions about his judgment on this question.
Here’s the crux of the issue.
Illinois prisons hold an undisclosed number of immigrants who illegally entered this country, committed serious crimes and were convicted of felonies and sentenced to prison.
Because of their illegal entry into the country, they are subject to being detained upon release from state prison by federal immigration officials to determine whether they should be returned to their home countries.
Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey said his office has coordinated with federal immigration officials and the state corrections department to pick up illegal-immigrant convicted felons and hold them pending legal review of their status.
Recently, however, the state corrections department ceased communications with Downey’s office. As a result, illegal immigrants who complete their prison sentences and otherwise would be facing potential deportation are released.
Livingston County Sheriff Tony Childress said he was “dumbfounded” to learn that what he called “dangerous felons” are being released without “even a courtesy call.”
Of course, that process is generally how all inmates are released. But all inmates are not illegal immigrants, and there’s a huge difference between the two.
Illegal-immigrant convicted felons are not citizens. They violated U.S. law to enter the country, and they committed crimes after doing so.
Their status is not akin to those of children brought illegally by their parents to this country at a very young age who know no home other than the U.S. These are convicted felons who pose a public-safety threat, some more than others.
Downey noted that his office transported 223 inmates from the state corrections department in 2019. Of that group, 55 were convicted of sex offenses, 11 of murder and attempted murder and 33 of gun crimes.
They are not worthy of the protection Pritzker is providing. He attributes his decision to a 2017 state law that restricts law enforcement’s contacts with federal authorities on the issue of illegal immigration.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s consistent with his open-borders stance that any citizen of a foreign country who is able to gain entry illegally can remain regardless of whether their conduct here is law abiding or not.
Pritzker may think that’s a politically winning position, particularly in Cook County. But that approach poses an obvious public-safety threat that opens the door to myriad serious problems