The Illinois General Assembly passed a bill on May 31 that requires local authorities to cancel contracts to detain immigrants facing removal proceedings, and it prohibits them from entering into similar agreements in the future. The Illinois Way Forward Act gives police departments and local and state government agencies until the end of 2021 to comply with its provisions. The bill was passed just two weeks after McHenry County officials voted overwhelmingly to keep an immigration detention contract in place.
There are three detention facilities in Illinois that are used to detain undocumented individuals taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They are the McHenry County Jail in Woodstock, the Pulaski County Detention Center in Ullin and the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee. These facilities are paid about $95 per person per day to house detained undocumented immigrants. The new law leaves federal authorities with few options as private prisons were banned by Illinois lawmakers in 2019, and the costs of building a new facility would be prohibitive.
Voices for and against the new law
A senior Kankakee County law enforcement official said the Illinois Way Forward Act will endanger the public and questioned the legality of the legislation. However, the bill is backed by a coalition of groups calling for immigration reform. These groups say the law is needed to stop Illinois playing a supporting role in the enforcement of policies that are based on race rather than risk.
Attorneys familiar with U.S. immigration law may advocate on behalf of undocumented individuals during removal proceedings. When fighting deportation, there are a number of approaches that an experienced immigration attorney might take, such as submitting a petition for asylum or mounting a defense based on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.