Rep. Bourne Criticizes Pritzker’s Policy to Release Violent Undocumented Immigrant Felons into IL Communities

State Representative Avery Bourne (R-Morrisonville) stood with House and Senate Republicans and county sheriffs from throughout Illinois, including Christian County Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp, on Tuesday to urge Governor JB Pritzker to immediately reverse a radical shift in state policy. The policy, approved by the Pritzker administration, requires undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of violent felonies to be released from prison into communities, rather than transferred to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

As of January 30th, the Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) ceased their policy of cooperating with ICE to transport dangerous felons into federal custody. This policy change was made with no notice to law enforcement, crime victims, or local communities. It now allows undocumented immigrant felons to be released upon the completion of their incarceration directly into the communities where they served their time, such as Taylorville or Graham Correctional Centers. Prior to the abrupt policy change, undocumented inmates, upon the completion of their sentence, were transported to ICE custody, where their legal status was determined and they would face possible release, detention, or deportation.

“The State of Illinois is helping convicted felons get a head start on evading federal authorities who simply want to do their job,” said Sheriff Kettelkamp. “The lack of coordination is raising the stakes that a dangerous or violent altercation will occur in our communities between a recently-released felon, who knows that immigration authorities are looking for them, and any law enforcement officer. This policy undermines the rule of law, endangers our communities, and puts the lives of our first responders at risk.”

“These are felons who committed serious crimes including murder, sexual assault, and child abuse, and who are wanted by the Federal government. They pose a threat to the safety of our communities,” said Bourne. “With no safety measures in place, these criminals are walking out the door after serving their time, and getting a ‘free pass’ for violating federal immigration laws. We don’t even know if there is a mechanism in place to mandate those convicted of sex crimes to register as a sex offender in the community where they settle.  These criminals are wanted by ICE and should be handed over to ICE once they have served their time in DOC. This is a public safety issue. This is an issue of upholding the rule of law. This dangerous policy change by the Pritzker administration and the Department of Corrections is wrong. I join my colleagues and members of law enforcement in calling for the immediate reversal of this radical policy.”

Before this policy change, if a convicted felon was an undocumented immigrant and was wanted by ICE after they completed their sentence, they were directly transported from the prison where they were serving time into ICE custody. Last year alone, 17 such individuals were transferred from DOC to ICE custody from Taylorville Correctional Center and 3 individuals were transferred from Graham Correctional Center into ICE custody. Under the new policy, those individuals would have been released into the community without any notice to local authorities or to ICE. 

Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey’s department had a contract with ICE to coordinate the pick-up and transfer of inmates whose state prison sentences were ending, but for whom valid retainers had been issued due to their immigration status. Downey explained that in 2019, the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Office participated in the safe and secure transfer of 223 felons that had been convicted of crimes including, murder, attempted murder, predatory criminal sexual assault with some assaulting children under the age of 13, and other offenses. “Rather than safely allowing us to transfer these felons to answer for another serious and legitimate criminal charge in another court of law they are being released by the Department of Corrections into our communities all across the state of Illinois,” Downey said. 

In addition to the call for an immediate reversal of the new policy, lawmakers also called for public hearings to learn how such a significant policy change could occur without input from legislators, law enforcement, or the public.

On Tuesday, Governor Pritzker’s office dismissed calls for hearings and claimed they would continue these policies as a way to resist President Trump’s immigration policies.  

Bourne responded by saying, “Governor Pritzker is committed to opposing President Trump at any cost, and it is putting our communities and local law enforcement in danger.”