- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in Illinois

February 28, 2020

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

Governor asking for trouble

Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to ensure that as many illegal immigrants who are convicted felons as possible remain in the state.



That sounds crazy, right? But that’s the bottom-line impact of a new policy the governor recently implemented at the Illinois Department of Corrections and is actively defending.

“As Donald Trump continues to advance policies that tear apart families and terrorize children, the Pritzker administration is committed to using every tool at our disposal to protect immigrant families in Illinois,” a Pritzker spokeswoman said in response to complaints about the new policy made by the sheriffs of Kankakee and Livingston counties.

Pritzker’s concerns for illegal-immigrant families in Illinois may be considered commendable in some circles. But his disinterest in or disdain for public safety raises serious questions about his judgment on this question.

Here’s the crux of the issue.

Illinois prisons hold an undisclosed number of immigrants who illegally entered this country, committed serious crimes and were convicted of felonies and sentenced to prison.

Because of their illegal entry into the country, they are subject to being detained upon release from state prison by federal immigration officials to determine whether they should be returned to their home countries.

Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey said his office has coordinated with federal immigration officials and the state corrections department to pick up illegal-immigrant convicted felons and hold them pending legal review of their status.

Recently, however, the state corrections department ceased communications with Downey’s office. As a result, illegal immigrants who complete their prison sentences and otherwise would be facing potential deportation are released.

Livingston County Sheriff Tony Childress said he was “dumbfounded” to learn that what he called “dangerous felons” are being released without “even a courtesy call.”

Of course, that process is generally how all inmates are released. But all inmates are not illegal immigrants, and there’s a huge difference between the two.

Illegal-immigrant convicted felons are not citizens. They violated U.S. law to enter the country, and they committed crimes after doing so.

Their status is not akin to those of children brought illegally by their parents to this country at a very young age who know no home other than the U.S. These are convicted felons who pose a public-safety threat, some more than others.

Downey noted that his office transported 223 inmates from the state corrections department in 2019. Of that group, 55 were convicted of sex offenses, 11 of murder and attempted murder and 33 of gun crimes.

They are not worthy of the protection Pritzker is providing. He attributes his decision to a 2017 state law that restricts law enforcement’s contacts with federal authorities on the issue of illegal immigration.

But there’s more to it than that. It’s consistent with his open-borders stance that any citizen of a foreign country who is able to gain entry illegally can remain regardless of whether their conduct here is law abiding or not.

Pritzker may think that’s a politically winning position, particularly in Cook County. But that approach poses an obvious public-safety threat that opens the door to myriad serious problems.

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February 29, 2020

(Decatur) Herald & Review

Ongoing shell game in Illinois is frustrating

has long been the state that always offers a surprise. Anyone who’s lived in the state more than five years has felt it directly. There’s a point where the state pulls back something that’s been promised. Cities experience it, businesses experience it, non-profit enterprises experience it, taxpayers experience it.

One of the recent recipients of this most frequent of state gifts was the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board and funding for officer training. A state law change in money allocation left the board about $5 million than it had last year. A bill to address the shortage is in progress.

In the meantime, nine new Decatur police officers needed to be trained at the cost exceeding of $6,000 per officer. Just as a car needs immediate repairs or something in the home must be fixed now or cost more later, the city needed to take care of its officers’ fees. The surprise was a quick cost of $56,736 to the city, an amount the council OK’d to spend on Monday.

You can imagine that scenario playing out in municipalities all over the state. So while Illinois seems to benefit the taxpayers on one front, funding still socks the taxpayers in the pocket.

The shortage is because of a drop in collected traffic fines. A law last year allowed judges to waive traffic fines in court, and the Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police cited that law in accounting for the drop, and they’ve asked the General Assembly to replace the funding.

Obviously, we want our officers trained as well as they can be, and they must meet legal requirements in training.

The larger issue is the shell game regularly played with funding in Springfield, all under the heading of “efficiency.” It’s just a fancy name for a game state officials have been playing far too long. And the losers this time around were places all over the state who were unexpectedly shorted of funds.

___

February 18, 2020

(LaSalle) News-Tribune

State taking good steps to manage disease during potential outbreak

The Illinois Department of Public Health recently took a big step in a wise direction when it acquired the ability to conduct in-state tests for coronavirus. The disease originated in China in the city of Wuhan, located in the province of Hubei, and quickly became enough of a concern the World Health Organization branded it a global health emergency, is justifiably the subject of widespread media reports as well as public speculation.

Although we understand and agree with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in its assessment risk to the American public “remains low at this time,” that doesn’t take away from the fact two Illinoisans have already tested positive, a woman who recently traveled to Wuhan and her husband. Nearly 50 other residents have been tested, though no other cases have been confirmed.

With the ability to test in house, state officials can cut wait times for results down to about 24 hours, which will be helpful not just to folks displaying symptoms but also in keeping the public informed and, hopefully, unafraid. After all, the faster a result is received the easier it will be to either contain those with confirmed cases or allow test subjects to return to their normal lives.

At the time of the IDPH announcement, Illinois was the first state to be able to conduct tests without shipping lap specimens elsewhere. Plans are to get testing online at state labs in Springfield and Carbondale. Not everyone with a respiratory condition is eligible, the state is looking for criteria such as having traveled to China or hitting other exposure check marks. The current thought is symptoms show up two to 14 days after exposure and that transmission of the virus doesn’t happen before a person develops symptoms.

Those conditions are further evidence why the IDPH was wise to react so quickly to develop a testing protocol. We are hopeful the coronavirus concern is only temporary and presume state health officials are closely monitoring the need to maintain this ability and balancing expense against the benefit to the general welfare of state residents.

A virus such as this shouldn’t be taken lightly. Already more than 1,000 people have died. Nearly all those deaths have been in China, and the disease has barely 2 percent fatality rate so far, but we don’t get a second chance to control a pandemic, so prudent investment in containment is easily justified.

The CDC is recommending an avoidance of all nonessential to China, a logical suggestion at this point. Beyond that, concerns about coronavirus in Illinois can be directed to IDPH’s new hotline - call 800-889-3931 - or email dph.sick@illinois.gov. Furthermore, employ good personal hygiene practices and take the same precautions health experts are already recommending due to an active flu season.

We’re glad to know state officials are taking this concern seriously and hope readers find a measure of comfort in the government’s response. Information is essential.

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