Bill to ban private immigrant detention centers sent to Pritzker

SPRINGFIELD -- A bill that would ban for-profit immigrant detention centers in Illinois is now on its way to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The Illinois Senate voted 34-to-14 on Thursday to pass House Bill 2020. It was approved by the House on April 10 by a vote of 85-to-26.

The bill would prohibit the state or any local unit of government from entering into an agreement to detain people in privately owned facilities. It also would prohibit them from spending any money to subsidize or defray the costs of developing or operating one.

The measure would take effect immediately if signed by Pritzker.

The bill was introduced in response to a proposal to build a private federal detention center in downstate Dwight.

According to published reports, Dwight's village board had voted in March to annex and rezone a parcel where Virginia-based Immigration Centers of America planned to build and operate a detention center under a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Illinois has prohibited the development of private prisons since 2012. The new legislation would expand that law to include private detention centers. However, it would not apply to state work-release centers or juvenile residential facilities that provide care and treatment by nonprofit contractors.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat, was the lead sponsor in the House. Earlier this year, she called the bill "critically important" to Illinois remaining "welcoming" to all people.

"There is an effort afoot to bring a private, for-profit ICE detention center to the state of Illinois," she said March 22. "We said, 'Slow your roll. Hold up here. That's not who we are, that's not how we operate. We don't believe in making money out of putting humans in cages, and we're going to do everything we can to stop the advance of this effort.'"

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