Illinois communities celebrated the homecoming of three men released from immigration detention today as Pulaski County Jail ends its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Advocates continue to demand the release of dozens of other people the agency says it is transferring to other detention centers.
In August, Pulaski County informed ICE that it would end its ICE contract ahead of the implementation of the Illinois Way Forward Act, which will bring an end to immigration detention in the state in early 2022. Fifty-five community organizations, social services, and legal service providers sent a letter to the Biden administration demanding it exercise its authority to release people from the jail, rather than transfer them to other facilities in ICE’s abusive detention system.
Family members and advocates scrambled last month to submit release requests on behalf of the loved ones and community members detained at Pulaski. Advocates from across Illinois sent over 1,300 emails to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and local ICE leadership to demand that those in detention at Pulaski be released instead of transferred to other ICE facilities. On Friday evening, the advocates were informed that only three individuals would be released the next day, while all others were scheduled for transfers.
Community members and advocates issued the following statements responding to the news:
“ICDI stands ready to receive people released from detention with immediate assistance and support for the long term,'' said Dr. Ed Pratt, executive director of the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants. “There are better ways to receive immigrants than placing them in jails. They come to our borders for safety and freedom and we place them behind bars.”
“In the past few weeks, community partners and advocates, including NIJC, have ensured that every person detained at Pulaski was able to present ICE with evidence supporting a request for release,” said Ruben Loyo, associate director of NIJC’s Detention Project. “But with such a perfunctory ‘review’ of cases prior to Pulaski's closure, ICE and the Biden administration have yet again shown a disregard for how immigration detention tears apart families and destabilizes communities. Among those denied release today is an NIJC client with significant mental disabilities who ICE has jailed for more than three years. We will continue fighting for ICE to end immigration detention.”
“While we welcome home the three people who have finally been released today, we are disgusted that ICE continues to jail all of the other people it was holding at Pulaski,” said Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “These are people with families and loved ones who deserve release — they have either already served their time or have committed no offense at all. We join with ICDI, NIJC, and many other allies to continue to demand that ICE release, not transfer, the people who ICE continues to detain at the jails in Kankakee and McHenry County, and end the inhumane, costly, and unnecessary practice of jailing people awaiting their immigration process.”