Lawmakers pass bills to close ICE detention centers, enhance deportation protections


SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers passed bills advanced by the Legislative Latino Caucus that would close the state’s three immigrant detention centers and strengthen existing protections against local and federal law enforcement. 

The Illinois Way Forward Act, or Senate Bill 667, requires that the existing agreements between local jails in McHenry, Pulaski and Kankakee counties and Immigration and Customs Enforcement must end by Jan. 1, 2022. The bill also prohibits any future agreements between ICE and local governments to “house or detain individuals for federal civil immigration violations.” 

The bill would also strengthen the TRUST Act, or “Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools,” which took effect in 2017. 

The TRUST Act prohibits state and local law enforcement officials from detaining “any individual solely on the basis of any immigration detainer or nonjudicial immigration warrant.” 

Under the TRUST Act, state and local police cannot arrest or detain individuals based on suspected or actual immigration status. It also prohibits police from holding or detaining people based on ICE arrest warrants or detainers.

But there are other types of cooperation that local police can engage in with federal immigration enforcement, such as cooperating in joint operations with ICE, said Fred Tsao, who is senior policy counsel at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which lobbied for this bill.

“They can still transfer people to ICE. They can still give ICE access to people who are detained in their facilities. They can still give ICE access to their facilities, and share information with ICE,” Tsao said in an interview. “So, the intent of this legislation is to further restrict local police participation and facilitation of those kinds of activities, short of ICE having a criminal warrant.”

Local police can still participate in and cooperate with ICE if the case involves a criminal offense, Tsao said.

“But if it’s purely a civil immigration situation, then local police cannot touch that,” he said.


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SB 667 would also empower the state attorney general’s office to investigate violations of the TRUST Act and enforce compliance through local courts.

Under the current law, the mechanism to enforce the TRUST Act is to have an injured party bring the lawsuits themselves in county court.

“That can be really difficult and really expensive and time consuming. And it places the burden on the person who was hurt by the behavior. And if this is a pattern and practice on the part of the law enforcement agency, that would mean multiple different actions that would have to proceed separately,” Tsao said.

“Empowering the attorney general to be able to investigate, to request documents, to really get to the bottom of such practices, and then to enable them to seek remedial action is a very important step in making sure that these laws get complied with.”

Similar legislation offering protections for immigrants and phasing out immigrant detention centers were passed recently in California and Washington state.

“We are hoping that this bill will provide a model or template for other states to pick up, as they’re moving legislation forward and trying to provide protections for their local communities,” Tsao said.

In addition to SB 667, the House and Senate extended Medicaid coverage to noncitizens between ages 55 and 64 in Senate Bill 2017. Current law provides Medicaid coverage for noncitizens who are 65 and older.

The legislature also passed House Bill 2790 to allow attorneys from the Cook County Public Defender’s Office to represent noncitizens in federal immigration court.

The purpose of HB 2790 was to ensure there are no conflicts arising from jurisdictional issues, such as lawsuits against the county to prevent or prohibit public defenders from representing clients in federal immigration court, said Irakere Picon, a lead organizer of the Defenders for All Coalition and director of legal services at the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition.

“We’re very excited as advocates to ensure that we get to the point where somebody who is being detained and has to represent themselves in immigration court, someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language, doesn’t have to do that by themselves,” Picon said.

The bills have passed both chambers of the General Assembly and will be sent to Gov. J.B Pritzker.

Illinois’ most endangered historic places

Broadview Hotel, East St. Louis

Built in 1927, the hotel, which has fallen into disrepair, could be used as more than 100 housing units for seniors, Landmarks Illinois said, but the hotel needs an act of the Illinois General Assembly to expand a tax credit for the redevelopment.

Joliet Steel Mill main office building, Joliet

A 130-year-old part of the Joliet Steel Works National Register Historic District, the building has been neglected by U.S. Steel, which still owns the structure, Landmarks Illinois says. Productive discussions between U.S. Steel, which still owns the building, and the city are recently underway, McDonald said.

Klas Restaurant, Cicero

Vacant and up for sale, with no historical protection, the Cermak Road building long served as an anchor of Czech culture in the region since it was constructed in 1922, the group said.

The owner received a demolition permit from the city that has since expired, according to McDonald. A new buyer who can rehab the building and restore artistic features, including indoor murals, is being sought.

Sean Reilly

Havana Water Tower, Havan

Built in 1889, the National Register-listed water tower needs extensive rehab work from top to bottom, the group says. The city does not have funding for the extensive repairs and the site continues to deteriorate.

Kevin L. Miller

​Illinois Terminal Interurban Station, Decatur

A building that was first a rail station, then a church, the structure’s current owners, the Faith Community Assembly, expect to sell the 1931 building, Landmark Illinois said.

Altgeld Gardens Shop Building and school buildings C and E, Chicago

Known as the “Up-Top,” the wavy-roofed retail building in the Chicago Housing Authority’s Altgeld Gardens housing complex is privately owned and in demolition court, according to Landmarks Illinois. The building, built during World War II, hosts a painted memorial wall for those who died of pollution-related illness and violence.

Neighborhood residents have told Landmarks Illinois they hope the “Up-Top” will be converted into a grocery store.

Sean Reilly

James R. Thompson Center, Chicago

Long on the endangered list, the Thompson Center appears to be having its sale hurried along by the state’s COVID-19-exacerbated budget shortfall in 2020. April 2, 2022, is the targeted sale date.

‘Green Book’ sites statewide

A contemporary Underground Railroad of sorts, many “Green Book” sites are often unassuming private homes or buildings that catered to Black travelers. Many have already been lost to demolition or redevelopment, and any number of structures could suffer the same fate without owners even knowing of their historic significance. The group is working with Route History to document the history of “Green Book” sites along Illinois’ historic Route 66, but seeks a larger-scale documentation and preservation effort.

Scott Foresman headquarters, Glenview

Itself a textbook example of midcentury modern design, the 1966 textbook publishing corporate campus is a type of structure that is particularly vulnerable, preservationists say, as many companies downsize their office holdings. Lots were already leaving office campuses in the suburbs in favor of new downtown locations before COVID-19 struck.

Preservationists suggest it could be re-purposed as a school, daycare campus or fitness center.

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June 3, 2021 at 10:22PM

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