Lake County Sheriff Signs LEITF Letter to Immigrant Communities; Reaction Spotlights Difficult Position of Practically Upholding All Laws and Maintaining Community’s Trust

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The Lake County Sheriff’s Office posted a notification about Sheriff John Idleburg’s signing of an open letter to immigrant communities as part of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force ( The goal of LEITF expresses the mission to build positive, productive relationships with their communities served and build trust so that all people feel safe talking to the police. However, the notification raised skepticism by some citizens about how the Lake County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) would respond when they encounter a person who is discovered to be in violation of immigration law. On the extremes of the divided topic, there are two themes: 1) We love that the LCSO wants to help all people feel safe, and 2) We are concerned about how well the LCSO will pro-actively and practically work with federal goals and federal personnel (such as ICE and HSI) that enforce immigration law.

Some law enforcement communities, serving at the Thin Blue Line with large immigration populations, are apparently caught in a difficult political position between keeping peace and trust in their community, and practically supporting or upholding all elements of the law.

Following is the text of the post from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office (9/4/2019 at 10:24 a.m.) that stimulated a lengthy and exhausting series of comments on their official Facebook page …

In the wake of the August 3rd El Paso mass shooting as well as the other acts of mass violence we continue to see around the United States, Sheriff John Idleburg, along with the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, wish to remind Lake County we are here for everyone, whether you reside in Lake County or are visiting. For these reasons, Sheriff Idleburg supported and signed the attached open letter to our immigrant communities.

Sheriff John Idleburg added:
“A significant pillar of being able to effectively keep our community safe is having the trust of those we serve. I believe the Lake County Sheriff’s Office has a great reputation in our community and that’s largely because of the excellent personnel we have on staff. Even though we have earned the trust of most in our community, a large amount of concern exists in our immigrant communities.

These concerns consist of fears of reporting crimes, coming forward as a crime victim, and coming forward as a witness of a crime, primarily because of the fear of being arrested due to immigration status.

There is a significant amount of confusion which exists regarding our role in immigration enforcement and deportations. The job of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office is to keep our community safe. We accomplish this by enforcing only Illinois State Law and Lake County Ordinance. We do not enforce federal laws, including federal immigration laws. Our efforts need to be focused on our local community, we have no desire or resources to enforce federal immigration laws. We need our immigrant communities to trust us in order for us to effectively do our jobs of keeping people safe.

It is not possible to end the repeated violence we continue to see if our community lives in fear of speaking with us. I can’t say it any louder or with any more emphasis: IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING!

We are here for you Lake County, whether you’ve lived here your entire life, or recently immigrated here – we are here to serve you.”

Following is the actual letter, dated Thursday August 29, 2019, intended for immigrant communities from LEITF. Sheriff John Idleburg was the only sheriff in Illinois to sign the letter. In Texas there were seven signatures from heads of law enforcement agencies. In Florida, there were three signatures. There were no signatures from New York. There were seven signatures from Arizona, and there were five signatures from California.

Dear Immigrant Communities:

As members of the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF), we want to assure you and communities across the country that local law enforcement serves to keep everyone safe.

Following the tragic Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso, Texas, and raids the following week in Mississippi, we know that many immigrants in our communities are afraid. We are here to serve all communities.

Our primary job is to maintain public safety. To do that, we need your trust. We want you to feel safe in our communities and comfortable calling law enforcement to report crimes, serving as witnesses, and asking for help in emergencies. When you feel safe and comfortable reaching out to us, we can keep everyone safer.

We need and are committed to protecting everyone in our communities. We cooperate with federal law enforcement to respond to threats in our communities — when our safety is at stake. But immigration enforcement is, first and foremost, a federal responsibility. We want to focus our limited state and local resources on threats to public safety and security.

Your trust is paramount to state and local law enforcement’s ability to maintain public safety. Please continue to call on us. We are here to serve everyone who lives here and committed to keeping everyone safe.


Sheriff Margaret Mims, LEITF Co-Chair
Fresno County, CA

Chief Art Acevedo, LEITF Co-Chair
Houston, TX

Chief Carmen Best, LEITF Co-Chair
Seattle, WA

Executive Director Chuck Wexler
Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)

Chief Ramon Batista
Mesa, AZ

Sheriff Tony Estrada
Santa Cruz County, AZ

Chief Chris Magnus
Tucson, AZ

Chief Sylvia Moir
Tempe, AZ

Chief Mike Soelberg
Gilbert, AZ

Chief Steve Stahl
Maricopa, AZ

Chief Roberto Villasenor, Retired
Tucson, AZ

Chief James Lopez, Retired
Los Angeles County, CA

Chief Robert G. Luna
Long Beach, CA

Chief Michel R. Moore
Los Angeles, CA

Chief Robert N. Sharpnack
Costa Mesa, CA

Chief David Valentin
Santa Ana, CA

Sheriff Joe DiSalvo
Pitkin County, CO

Chief Dwight Henninger
Vail, CO

Sheriff Joe Pelle
Boulder County, CO

Chief Jorge Colina
Miami, FL

Sheriff John Mina
Orange County, FL

Chief Orlando Rolon
Orlando, FL

Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald
Story County, IA

Chief Wayne Jerman
Cedar Rapids, IA

Director of Public Safety Mark Prosser
Storm Lake, IA

Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek
Johnson County, IA

Sheriff Kevin Schneider
Polk County, IA

Chief Mike Tupper
Marshalltown, IA

Chief William Bones
Boise, ID

Chief Craig Kingsbury
Twin Falls, ID

Sheriff John Idleburg
Lake County, IL

Chief Michael Diekhoff
Bloomington, IN

Chief Scott Ruszkowski
South Bend, IN

Chief Ron Teachman, Retired
South Bend, IN

Chief James Hawkins, Retired
Garden City, KS

Chief Brian Kyes
Chelsea, MA

Commissioner Michael S. Harrison
Baltimore, MD

Sheriff Kevin Joyce
Cumberland County, ME

Chief Ron Haddad
Dearborn, MI

Chief Todd Axtell
Saint Paul, MN

Chief Christopher C. Blue
Chapel Hill, NC

Sheriff Eli Rivera
Cheshire County, NH

Chief Richard Biehl
Dayton, OH

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare
Providence, RI

Chief Fred Fletcher, Retired
Chattanooga, TN

Sheriff Marian Brown
Dallas County, TX

Chief Frank Dixon
Denton, TX

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez
Harris County, TX

Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra
Hidalgo County, TX

Chief Andy Harvey
Palestine, TX

Sheriff Sally Hernandez
Travis County, TX

Chief Michael Kester
Harlingen, TX

Chief Mike Brown
Salt Lake City, UT

Chief Chris Burbank, Retired/FBI National Executive Institute Associates President
Salt Lake City, UT

Chief Maggie A. DeBoard
Herndon, VA

Chief Michael Koval
Madison, WI

Sheriff David J. Mahoney
Dane County, WI

The letter was available on the official LEITF website on a web page in English and via PDF letters in English and Spanish.

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