Could a proposed change in Illinois law derail plans for an ICE detention center near Chicago?

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A plan for a private immigration detention center two hours from Chicago is facing a challenge from Democratic Illinois lawmakers who are seeking a statewide ban on such facilities.

The proposed law, House Bill 2040, passed the Illinois House on Wednesday and seeks to expand the state’s moratorium on private prisons to include civil detention centers like those that hold immigrants facing deportation.

The legislative maneuver has emerged as a contentious national debate on immigration shows no signs of waning. In recent weeks, President Donald Trump has threatened to close off the southern border while still calling for the construction of a wall, and controversy remains over his administration’s separation of migrant children from their parents, a practice now suspended.

The Illinois bill is a response to a vote by local leaders in Dwight, Ill., that opened the door for the private, Virginia-based Immigration Centers of America to secure a federal contract and build an immigration detention center to serve the Chicago area. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is currently accepting proposals for detention services within 80 miles of Chicago that would house an estimated 1,000 people.

“We will continue making progress until it’s just not feasible or we don’t get awarded the facility on the federal level,” Truscott said.

An ICE official declined to comment on the proposed Illinois legislation.

Kent Redfield, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said a state can’t outlaw private companies from entering into contracts with the federal government. But the pending bill is an example of how the state can limit the power of local government agencies to enter into contractual arrangements with private companies.

Redfield said bills such as HB2040 can have concrete consequences but can also be used to serve a broader political agenda.

“This is all about Trump’s immigration policies and the people that are opposed to the detention policies,” Redfield said. “So there is a whole political back and forth between supporters and opponents.”

The bill could also have a real impact on the timeline of the construction of these types of facilities by delaying the projects, Redfield said.

“If you slow things down and create ambiguity, sometimes you end up derailing things even though you are arguing a position that didn’t have a solid legal basis,” Redfield said.

emalagon@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @ElviaMalagon

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April 11, 2019 at 02:51PM

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