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Immigration Agents Move Out Of Criminal Court Building

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Federal agents who track illegal immigrants are no longer working out of the Cook County Criminal Courts building where they were able to immediately check arrest records and begin deportations.

As CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot reports, historically, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents have been reviewing the arrest reports of all incoming prisoners born outside the United States.

They were looking to see if a person was here illegally or had sufficient criminal convictions to warrant deportation. Mysteriously, the immigration agents were recently told to leave.

An ICE spokesperson issued a statement that said:

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) works closely with all law enforcement agencies - local, state, federal and international - to accomplish our common goals of combating crime and protecting public safety. On March 25, Cook County State's Attorney officials notified ICE that we may no longer station ICE agents at the Cook County facility, located at 26th & California, to review county arrest records and identify criminal aliens. ICE and Cook County officials are discussing the issue to best accommodate our common goals and challenges."

A state's attorney spokesperson offered this response: "There has been a misconception the State's Attorney's office has been working with ICE or providing information on those in custody. This is not true."

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said he was fine with having the federal agents there.

"There might have actually been something helpful by having them here, that namely they were more quickly able to discern who are in fact citizens and who is not and then we'd leave them alone," Dart said.

A law enforcement source said past cases show why tabs need to be kept on new inmates. The source said one inmate, Marek Tomaszewska, had an immigration hold, or detainer, placed on him on March 23 after being charged with attempted murder and numerous counts of aggravated battery. 

The immigration hold placed on Tomaszewska happened two days before ICE agents were told not to come back to the facility. If Tomaszewska is convicted in this most recent case, he would be eligible for deportation, even though he has a green card.  He has one prior conviction for domestic battery.

In Tomaszewska's current case, he is accused of allegedly beating his girlfriend so badly he almost killed her. According to court and police records, Tomaszewska was arrested on March 21, 2011. He was charged with one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm, one count of aggravated battery and one count of domestic battery.

Court and police records say Tomaszewska pushed his girlfriend to the ground and kicked her in the face and body.

Father Chuck Dahm is a member of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant & Refugee Rights.  Dahm said Tomaszewska's case is not a reflection of all illegal immigrants.

"The fact you have one case does not prove the rule that you should pick up absolutely everybody," he said. "Their tendency to be involved in serious crime or violent crime is much less than the general population."

In response to this story, the Federation for American Immigration Reform issued a statement that said in part:

"Checking inmates for immigration status and deportable offenses is the easy stuff for law enforcement -- the inmates are already incarcerated! If we're not doing this, we're not doing anything. Checking (an) inmate's immigration status is a basic minimum to ensure public safety."

Cook County and Chicago both have "sanctuary" ordinances that prevent police officers from inquiring about immigration status and prevent them from working with ICE on investigating or pursuing anyone regarding their immigration status.

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