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State

Some McHenry County law enforcement agency heads unsure on Trump's order on immigration

H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com
Harvard police officer Julio Lara (left) radios distpatch after he and fellow officer Spencer Smith responded to malfunctioning alarms at Brown Bear Day Care in Harvard. President Donald Trump's administration has urged local law enforcement agencies to help the federal government strongly enforce immigration laws, but many county law enforcement agency leaders say they have enough on their plate dealing with local crimes.
H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com Harvard police officer Julio Lara (left) radios distpatch after he and fellow officer Spencer Smith responded to malfunctioning alarms at Brown Bear Day Care in Harvard. President Donald Trump's administration has urged local law enforcement agencies to help the federal government strongly enforce immigration laws, but many county law enforcement agency leaders say they have enough on their plate dealing with local crimes.

President Donald Trump's administration has urged local law enforcement agencies to help the federal government strongly enforce immigration laws, but many county law enforcement agency leaders said they have enough on their plate dealing with local crimes.

Trump's order, announced in January, aims to establish agreements with law enforcement agencies to help enforce federal immigration laws, including empowering state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said last month that the agency would increase detention and arrests of undocumented immigrants after Trump's executive orders.

But one McHenry County police chief said enforcing the proposed policy could negatively affect relationships with members of the community.

"We've worked really hard to maintain a good, positive relationship with community members in Harvard, and I feel that's important," Harvard Police Chief Mark Krause said. "We need that relationship to be a two-way street."

About 45 percent of Harvard residents identify as Hispanic or Latino, according to 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Krause said the department takes a "reactionary" role when it comes to immigration enforcement. Inquiring about someone's legal status is not "a routine check," and it's typically only done when someone is being taken into custody or facing a criminal charge.

Krause said it's important to keep in mind that crime does not confine itself to a specific socioeconomic group.

"That's not our place, and it's not our design," he said. "If it's a serious case, and there's cause to question their legal status, then we do."

Krause said that in the past he has seen the types of policies that Trump is suggesting result in crime victims underreporting or failing to report a crime in fear of deportation, which could create further gaps between community members and police.

"When we don't have the trust of the people we are here to police, that could make our job impossible," he said.

Former President Barack Obama's immigration enforcement policies focused on undocumented immigrants who had committed serious felonies and people who had returned to the U.S. after deportation.

Kelly said this policy has considerably broadened, with it now including anyone who has been charged or convicted of any criminal offense, has engaged in fraud or lied to a governmental agency, or someone who otherwise poses a risk to public safety or national security.

McHenry County currently houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees in the McHenry County Jail, one of the few institutions in the area to do so. The partnership between ICE and the U.S. Marshals Service, which has been in place for more than a decade when the jail was expanded, was renewed last year.

McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim said the county has a longstanding working relationship with federal authorities, regularly housing federal inmates under contracts in the jail.

Prim said that although he thought the executive order was "somewhat vague," the likelihood of members of the department becoming immigration officers is "virtually nil."

"We don't have the time or the wherewithal to go out and do investigations regarding the status of our residents here," Prim said. "We do have other responsibilities, and we do have other operations that are going on that occupy our time significantly."

Prim also said his department does not screen everyone it comes in contact with about their status, nor do they plan to do so. Those kinds of inquiries usually are made when someone is arrested and is being processed in the jail, he said.

The sheriff's office also has not and does not plan to inquire about the legal status of victims of crimes, Prim said.

"We've never gone out and done that. … We don't anticipate doing it now," he said.

Woodstock Police Chief John Lieb said he believes immigration should not be delegated as a local law enforcement obligation. Lieb said his department works to treat everyone equally, no matter what their legal status.

"From my perspective this is really something that the states should handle, and we as a local law enforcement agency will enforce state statutes and local ordinances," he said.

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