New law will end immigrant detention in Illinois

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 5:59 PM CDT
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PULASKI COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - The Pulaski County Detention Center will no longer be allowed to hold immigration detainees.

The facility in Ullin is one of three in the state that have a contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The three facilities are located in McHenry, Kankakee and Pulaski Counties.

This week, Governor JB Pritzker signed a bill into law banning Illinois from holding illegal immigrants in the state.

That bill is called the Illinois Way Forward Act or Senate Bill 667.

“This is alarming, it’s concerning, it had bi-partisan opposition, you know, so in the state of Illinois, so we have too, everyone should be concerned,” said State Senator Dale Fowler of the 59th District

Fowler has one of the three facilities in his district, that’s the Pulaski County Detention Facility.

Fowler said this will have a big economic impact when the facility sends its ICE detainees to other parts of the U.S.

“For seeing it to terminate its contract with the federal government will have an economic impact no question about that, potentially eliminating jobs,” he explained. “And we’ll shift immigrants from what appears to be a well-maintained facility that we have here in southern Illinois in Pulaski County to an overcrowded, poorly managed federal facility.”

Southern Illinois University Law Professor Cindy Buys is a local expert on immigration laws.

She acknowledged Pulaski County Detention Center will see a loss in revenue.

“I know it’s been a source of revenue for the county, but now that Governor Pritzker has signed this law...I guess starting January first they will not be able to enter into any new contracts to house immigration detainees at public facilities as well as private ones,” said Buys.

According to Buys, the Pulaski County facility opened in the early 2000s. It’s a 200-bed facility and most beds are occupied by immigration detainees.

Professor Buys said the majority of the detainees haven’t broken any other laws.

“It could be that there are folks who have come here on agricultural VISAs in southern Illinois to work on some of the fruit farms and that sort of thing and they’ve overstayed their VISA. Their’s might be a work raid, where they were picked up at their place of employment,” said Buys.

Even though Illinois is banning ICE detainees, it doesn’t change the national policy.

“I think they hope in Illinois that it does send a message that there is something wrong without immigration detention system and Illinois doesn’t want to be a part of it,” said Buys.

Fowler believes any changes should be crafted with input from all parties.

“Our own state and law local law enforcement did not support this proposal and justifily so. So, when you have bi-partisan opposition, I think that is a real red flag and really shows the concern that the general assembly has for this measure,” said Fowler.

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