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Cook County To Re-Evaluate Policy Of Releasing Illegal Immigrants

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Cook County commissioners voted Wednesday to hold a hearing on the contentious issue of whether to keep suspected illegal immigrants behind bars while federal authorities check their immigration status.

As WBBM Newsradio's David Roe reports, the commissioners called on county Sheriff Tom Dart and State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to provide input into the matter, according to the Chicago Tribune.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's David Roe reports


Commissioner Timothy Schneider (R-15th) introduced a plan to detain suspected illegal immigrants if federal officials ask the county to do so, but only in felony cases where drugs or violence are involved, or in the event that a suspect appears in a federal terrorist database, the Tribune reported.

In September, county commissioners agreed to free illegal immigrants being held on lesser charges. Before the move, when federal authorities arrested illegal immigrants, they were jailed in Cook County, but it was up to the local government to pay for their detention.

Under the ordinance, illegal immigrants being held on misdemeanor charges will be released, despite federal requests to the contrary. It follows a federal judge's ruling in Indiana that U.S. and Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers in local jails are voluntary, rather than mandatory, the Chicago Tribune explained.

Last week, critics blamed the ordinance for allowing an illegal immigrant to flee the country after he was released on bond in a fatal drunken driving case.

Saul Chavez was allowed to bond out of jail on a DUI charge and flee the country, even though U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had issued a detainer request so agents could arrest him for possible deportation.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle accused critics of "fear-mongering."

She said she is launching a six-month study of how bonds are set, believing the court system too often fails to properly determine which suspects are a danger to the public.

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