House approves immigration measure


SPRINGFIELD -- Acting on a measure supporters said would keep families together, the Illinois House voted Friday to allow counties to opt out of a program under which illegal immigrants can be deported for petty crimes.

The Secure Communities program, created at the federal level in 2007 and brought to Illinois in 2009, allows U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in conjunction with the Illinois State Police, to deport illegal immigrants picked up for criminal activity.

“What was occurring is that these departments were apprehending women, families were being split up,” said the sponsor, Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago. “As a result, mothers were being separated from their children – all for a minor traffic violation.”

Through February, nearly half of all ICE arrests had resulted in no convictions, according to the bill.

In Illinois, 26 counties participate in Secure Communities, but two, Kane and Lake Counties, want to opt out, Burke said.

The Sangamon County Sheriff’s office was unable to confirm whether the county participated in the program.

“The illegal immigration problem is not as big here as it is in Cook or Lake or other counties,” Sangamon County administrator Brian McFadden said.

Gov. Pat Quinn on Wednesday sent a letter to an ICE official saying that state police would no longer participate in Secure Communities. Burke said he was more comfortable with a statute than an executive order.

The vote on House Bill 929 was 66-43. The measure now goes to the Senate.

Andy Brownfield can be reached at (217) 782-3095.