WOODSTOCK – Another man who says he's being held in jail because of his immigration status has filed a lawsuit against McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim in relation to the Trust Act, a relatively new state law.
Pascasio M. Martinez, 34, of Crystal Lake filed a suit against Prim and the county in McHenry County court on Thursday, claiming that his civil rights were violated when the sheriff refused to release him after he posted bond on charges including felony drunken driving.
"Martinez is being held in the McHenry County jail in violation of the laws of the state of Illinois and the Illinois Constitution," Martinez's attorney, Jeannie Ridings of KRV Legal Inc. in Crystal Lake, wrote in the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that the county and Prim are purposefully not enforcing the law because of a county contract to rent jail beds to the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The county long has rented space on the third floor of the jail to ICE and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.
"[The] sheriff and sheriff’s department have breached their statutory duties," Ridings wrote. "[They] are indifferent to whether their conduct is lawful, because [they] have greater allegiance to the $7.5 million to $8.2 million in revenue the contract provides than to our state’s Constitution."
Prim declined to comment because the matter involved pending litigation, an employee said. McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally also declined to comment, as did McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks. Both cited the pending lawsuit.
The suit seeks Martinez's release and unspecified monetary damages. Ridings said the money was for leverage.
"Otherwise, I don't see this changing," she said.
Another Crystal Lake man, along with two other unnamed McHenry County residents, are seeking class action status in a lawsuit against Prim with similar allegations.
Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the Trust Act on Aug. 28, a measure prohibiting local and state police from searching, arresting or detaining a person simply because of their immigration status. Previously, jails across the state could hold a defendant on an immigration detainer, but now the state law requires a federal warrant signed by a judge.
Martinez's lawsuit claims that the McHenry County Sheriff's Office policy "is that the sheriff’s department will release ICE detainees if they post bond at a time when an ICE agent is not present in the county jail."
Martinez was arrested Aug. 31 on a felony aggravated driving under the influence charge and misdemeanor DUI charges. He has been in custody with an immigration hold since his arrest on the charges. He was not released even after his bail was posted.
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, is calling for the Trust Act to be repealed. He said it isn't just a McHenry County problem, but a statewide matter.
McSweeney said that he had encouraged Prim to seek guidance from federal authorities because he believes federal law would override state law in this case. He also said he wasn't on board with plans to carve out an exemption in the Trust Act for McHenry County.
McSweeney said he hopes Kenneally will challenge the constitutionality of the law in court.
"I know Pat [Kenneally] is ultra-focused on the ICE issue carve-out," McSweeney said,
"but I want the whole thing repealed."