Dec 17, 2012 | By Katie Brennan, Guest Blogger
The Reality of Immigration Policies Leads to Conversion of a Sheriff
Sheriff Mark Curran answers his office phone and hears the voice of a Hispanic woman. Curran recognizes her as a young woman he’s met before, who is active in the local church community. He remembers her as a voice of confidence, bringing assurance to the large Lake County immigrant community. But the voice Curran hears on the phone is not a voice of hope, but instead, a voice of desperation. The voice begs Curran to “look at the numbers.”
This was not the first time the sheriff of Lake County, Illinois, had been approached by immigrant communities. Curran is very visible and well-known in the county just south of the Wisconsin border.
But this particular phone call was one he still keeps with him. “You’ll see the tears in their eyes, you’ll hear the crackling in their voices, and it’s hard to be human, and not to react to that,” says Curran.
The “numbers” to which the young woman referred were the statistics Curran used when he spoke at a 2008 conference, supporting the implementation of section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The controversial provision authorizes local law enforcement agencies like the Lake Country Sheriff’s Office to identify, process and detain undocumented immigrants for potential deportation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Curran mentioned the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization that “seeks to improve border security, to stop illegal immigration, and to promote immigration levels consistent with the national interests,” and quoted FAIR’s statistics to prove the high costs immigrants were placing on the state of Illinois. The woman told Curran FAIR was a hate organization.
Before becoming sheriff, Curran had served as a prosecutor. He was heralded as a great crusader for immigration enforcement, bringing America “back to its foundations,” and people compared Curran to Joe Arpaio, the best- known sheriff in the nation, who recently won re-election to a sixth term as Maricopa County Sheriff, in Arizona.
In 2008, Curran was asked by the Catholic archdiocese to speak about law enforcement and gang violence at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. During a Q & A session, Cardinal Francis George, The Archbishop of Chicago, asked Curran about his views on immigration. Unhappy with the answers he received, Cardinal George asked Curran to take a look at what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had written on immigration.