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In Challenge to ICE, Illinois to Close All Immigration Detention Centers

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Governor J.B. Pritzker will terminate contracts with all immigration detention centers in the state of Illinois.

This Monday the state of Illinois passed a set of laws that will effectively end the detention of migrants within the state. This plan, promoted by Governor J.B. Pritzker will also restrict the ability of local law enforcement authorities to cooperate with federal immigration agencies.

The new law aims to nullify local agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that allow local jails to house detained immigrants while they await their immigration court hearings. Currently in force contracts must be terminated before January 2022 and new agreements will be prohibited.

Currently, three Illinois counties (Kankakee, Pulaski, and McHenry) have agreements between federal agencies and state jails. According to ICE, state prisons in Illinois hold a total of 260 detained migrants.

“Every family, every child, every human being deserves to feel safe and secure in the place they call home.”

Pritzker said at an event in Aurora where he officially signed a package of new laws protecting the rights of migrants.

The new law that promises to end immigration detention centers in Illinois

Once current contracts are terminated, the measure signed Monday by Pritzker effectively nullifies Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s ability to detain migrants within the state of Illinois. Most of those detained by ICE across the country are held in private or local government-run facilities.

The agency only operates a few of its own detention centers, and none are within the state of Illinois. The state also banned the hiring of private immigration detention centers in 2019, after several failed attempts to build new facilities near Chicago.

In recent years, other states and cities have finalized local agreements to house ICE detainees, such as California and Washington. Without any real progress on the matter of immigration reform at the federal level, many states have also resorted to banning private detention centers.

In this scenario, unless there are some legal impossibilities or other exceptions, ICE’s options are to transfer the current detainees to other states or to release them. Spokesmen for the agency declined to comment on the Illinois state plan.

Resistance to abiding by the new law in opposing counties

Pro-immigration sectors fight for the release of detainees, arguing that imprisoning people who wait for immigration procedures to be resolved not only goes against the rights of migrants but is also costly for the state. However, some state officials fear losing benefits and hampering necessary cooperation with federal authorities.

In McHenry County alone, the ICE deal brings about $ 10 million annually to the local economy, according to local board chairman Michael Buehler. That’s a significant amount of money for the small county in northern Illinois, which has an annual budget of approximately $ 200 million. Buehler added in an interview that the governor’s decision will negatively affect dozens of workers and services and that they would explore options to fight the measure.

Illinois: a sanctuary state for migrant rights

This new law deepens a previous measure from 2017, in which the state of Illinois was established as a “migrant sanctuary” that, among other things, prevented local police from making arrests on behalf of ICE. This recent advance in immigration matters also greatly restricts interactions between immigration agents and police forces unless there is a criminal case and restricts ICE’s access to local police equipment and facilities.

To ensure compliance, the law also empowers the state attorney general to investigate any possible violation of this regulation. And within the package signed by Pritzker, the creation of a task force was also established with the objective of evaluating how the state police and other state services affect migrants.

At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon, we are always happy to hear good news for migrants in the United States, and we congratulate the Illinois government for its commitment to justice and fighting an inhuman migration system, which still today holds detainees in many states and counties across the country.

If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! We have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at (281) 606-0800!

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