On July 28 news reports disclosed that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is seeking an environmental assessment for a site for a new privately-operated immigration detention facility in Dwight, Illinois. ICE is making this move in total disregard of a state law enacted last year to bar such facilities. The following is the statement by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC):
The State of Illinois spoke loudly and clearly last year when the General Assembly passed and Governor Pritzker signed the Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act: Private prison companies are not welcome in our state, and no one should profit from keeping people in detention. Yet ICE, an agency that claims to exist to enforce the law, is defying the will of our state and acting in an unlawful manner by attempting to move forward with the Dwight immigration prison. ICE is attempting to double its detention capacity in the Chicago region with this facility, even as the number of people in ICE custody nationally is falling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the company proposing the facility, Immigration Centers of America, is botching its handling of a COVID-19 outbreak at its sole facility in Virginia--with 75% of individuals detained there testing positive. Private for-profit immigrant detention centers have failed 100% of the time they have tried to come into Illinois, and this will be no different.
All of this is happening as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents are being deployed to American cities without any real need or accountability, as DHS continues to defy the Supreme Court’s ruling preserving the DACA program, and as ICE in Chicago is planning a “citizen’s academy” to train civilians on arrest tactics and firearms use. Our organizations will continue to fight to hold DHS and ICE accountable, to stop the harms they are inflicting and the fear they are creating in our communities, and to make our state welcoming for all.