Dec 21 2012

Cook County Illinois Commissioner Jesus Garcia Stands Up to Federal Immigration Policy

LA County Sheriff Lee Baca earlier this month backed off from his controversial position of complying with a federal government request to turn over for detention arrested individuals suspected of being undocumented immigrants. Baca had initially made his position public in the days before Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of the TRUST Act which would have undermined the federal Secure Communities program.

But, after California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced in early December that local law enforcement agencies need not comply with Secure Communities and that any compliance would be voluntary, Baca made the dramatic announcement that he would no longer turn over to federal authorities those individuals arrested for minor offenses who are also suspected undocumented immigrants.

Baca was sued in October by the ACLU on behalf of suspected undocumented immigrants who were denied bail after being arrested for minor offenses.

Even though Baca’s change of heart signals good news for immigrant rights advocates, many people say it is still not enough, primarily because those people arrested for serious offenses will still be detained and may enter into deportation proceedings even if they were found to be completely innocent. The detentions are based on their arrests, not convictions.

Today we turn to an elected official from Illinois who has become somewhat of a hero for immigrant rights activists for taking a strong progressive stand on immigration. Jesus Garcia is the Cook County Commissioner in Illinois – Cook County includes the city of Chicago and is the second most populous county in the nation after LA County.

Speaking out against the federal government’s immigration policy, Garcia sponsored a bill last year to defy ICE requests, also known as detainers, saying they “ero[de] the public trust that local law enforcement depends on to secure the accurate reporting of criminal activity.”

GUEST: Jesus Garcia became the first Mexican American elected to the office of state senator in Illinois where served two terms and got to know then state senator Barack Obama. He has also served as a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is currently Cook County Commissioner in Illinois

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