BROWN: Sheriff supported Trump — and immigrant protection bill

SHARE BROWN: Sheriff supported Trump — and immigrant protection bill

Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran. Photo by Daily Herald.

For those who don’t care to hear another word from me about immigration, perhaps you’d be more interested in what Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran has to say.

Curran runs the third largest sheriff’s department in Illinois in a county that is roughly 20 percent Latino.

Elected in 2006 as a Democrat, Curran switched to the Republican Party in 2008 and won re-election twice more.

Last year he ran as a Marco Rubio delegate to the Republican National Convention but in the end voted for Donald Trump for president to keep Democrats from controlling the Supreme Court.


Most important for our purposes today, he is a committed supporter of immigration reform and to limiting the role of local police in immigration enforcement — another complete switcheroo from when he came into office as a self-described “hard-liner.”

That makes Curran one of the key supporters of legislation Gov. Bruce Rauner intends to sign Monday that would restrict how local police interact with federal immigration authorities.

The governor’s office ended speculation Tuesday about Rauner’s plans for the bill, even as the governor came under increasing attack from conservatives who say it will make Illinois a “sanctuary state.”

The legislation, known to supporters as the TRUST Act, doesn’t go nearly that far. Probably the best evidence I can offer is that it has the support of both Curran and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, who wouldn’t be backing it if it did.

Unlike Cook County, Lake County is not a sanctuary jurisdiction, notes Curran, who continues to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

On average, ICE takes two individuals per week into custody from the Lake County Jail for purposes of deportation, Curran said.

“We tell them who is here, and ICE checks to see whether they’re undocumented, and after that they make a determination whether or not they want to put a hold on them,” Curran said.

Curran said his friends in the immigrant rights community have urged him to keep ICE agents out of the jail, as Cook County does, but he has declined.

“I thought about it, and it just was not the right thing for me for Lake County,” Curran said.

Maybe that will make it more believable when Curran says the TRUST Act won’t change how his office—or any municipal police department in Lake County—currently goes about its business.

The legislation requires that local police not comply with immigration detainers and warrants not issued by a judge. Curran said that’s already standard practice.

But writing it into the law could help stop other sheriffs or police chiefs from going rogue, supporters say.

In addition, the TRUST Act would prevent local police from stopping, searching or arresting anyone based on their immigration or citizenship status.

Again, that’s already how it’s done in Lake County, Curran said.

That provision could become more significant in the future, he said, if the federal government, as it did under President George W. Bush, seeks to deputize local jurisdictions to enforce immigration laws.

There was a time Curran would have jumped at that chance.

Then Cardinal Francis George turned him around by challenging his pro-life Catholic beliefs.

“If you’re pro-life, this is a life issue,” Curran said. “It’s not simply the unborn child. It’s the dignity of the human being. These are people number one. At that point in time, I knew I was totally wrong.”

Separating police work from immigration enforcement also makes sense from a law enforcement perspective, he said.

“I’m a rule of law guy, yes, but you can’t have a history where we had wide open borders, where we didn’t enforce these laws forever because we desperately needed the labor and knew that our immigration process was screwed up … and then 20 years later tell them, ‘You’re here illegally.”

“In order to police these communities, protect these communities from the true predators, you have to be able to pull up with lights and all and not have widespread fear and panic among citizens that really have nothing to do with the crime.”

Consider the source. A good one.

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