Four northern Illinois sheriffs filed a lawsuit Monday against the Illinois Attorney General, saying a 2017 order obstructs local law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration authorities (Eyewitness News WTVO WQRF).
County sheriffs from Kankakee, McHenry, Ogle, and Stephenson counties have filed a lawsuit against Kwame Raoul, Illinois Attorney General to effect termination of the enforcement of the Illinois Trust Act.
The Trust Act, signed into law by former governor Bruce Rauner in August 2017, was supposed to protect immigrants, but the sheriffs’ lawsuit says the law is unconstitutional because federal law contradicts the Trust Act. The sheriffs say, regarding detainment of immigrants, that the two laws in conflict are the Illinois Trust Act and U.S. Immigration laws set by Congress. According to the lawsuit, those detainers issued by federal immigration officials require sheriffs to maintain custody of undocumented aliens for up to 48 hours. The Illinois Trust Act says law enforcement should not hold immigrants for federal authorities.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois Western Division states the federal government alone has authority “to regulate matters pertaining to immigration and the status of aliens.”
The sheriffs of Ogle, Stephenson, McHenry, and Kankakee counties say the Trust Act gives them a tough time doing their jobs, speaking together for a press conference announcing the lawsuit.
“We cannot operate using two opposing systems at the same time and keep our community safe.”
— Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle
“The Trust Act makes us unable to give clear instructions to our deputies and correctional staff on how to handle certain situations. It should surprise no one that the result has been a flurry of lawsuits.”
— Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle
A coalition of community groups, led by PASO-West Suburban Action Project, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the National Immigrant Justice Center, the ACLU of Illinois, and Access Living joined together on November 7, 2019 launched an effort to ensure uniform enforcement of the Illinois TRUST Act.
“The police in Illinois do not work for ICE. People should not be detained because of how they look, what they believe or what paperwork they may or may not have,”
— Senate President John Cullerton (November news release, ACLU of Illinois
In November 2019, the ACLU demanded the uniform enforcement of the law, declaring the Trust Act prohibits local law enforcement from holding or detaining a person based on an administrative hold or “detainer” issued by immigration authorities unless presented with a signed judicial warrant.
The ACLU demand for uniform Trust Act enforcement was a response following lawsuits filed by three men against the sheriffs in Ogle and Stephenson counties for “flagrant violations of the Trust Act.” Each of the men was stopped and arrested for minor traffic infractions. The sheriffs continued to detain them, even after they had posted bond, until federal immigration authorities came to pick them up, according to the ACLU of Illinois.
“The Trust Act prohibits state and local law enforcement from arresting or detaining a person based on their immigration or citizen status, or based on a request from the federal government called an immigration detainer.”
— Rebecca Glenberg, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Illinois
“Under the Illinois Trust Act, we must choose between Washington D.C. and Springfield as to whom to obey.“
— Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders
Rebecca Glenberg, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Illinois, said the federal law is just a request and is not a requirement. However, in late February 2020, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled that the Trump administration can withhold funds, known as Edward Bryne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants, from states and cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Since 2017, federal funds were held from ‘sanctuary jurisdictions’ that failed to provide federal immigration authorities (e.g., ICE) with access to the jurisdictions’ jails, and were also held from ‘sanctuary jurisdictions’ that failed to provide advance notice of the release of immigrants from custody
Three out of the four sheriffs in Monday’s lawsuit have been sued for the Illinois Trust Act violations. Ogle County Sheriff VanVickle and Stephenson County Sheriff Snyders were sued just last year. Three of the sheriffs are fighting the lawsuits as defendants, and this week the four sheriffs are fighting the State of Illinois as plaintiffs for the preliminary and permanent injunction against the enforcement of the Trust Act. The plaintiffs in Monday’s lawsuit (Civil Action No. 20 CV 50094) are Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey, McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim, Ogle County Sheriff Brian E. Vanvickle, and Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders.
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