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NIJC Celebrates Illinois’ Bold Action to Defend Justice for Immigrants

CHICAGO — The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) celebrates today’s enactment of a new state law that opposes the harmful U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and defends access to justice for immigrants in Illinois.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker today signed into law the Illinois Way Forward Act (SB 667), which will bring an end to local detention contracts and other cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as strengthen access to protection for immigrant survivors of domestic violence and other crimes. NIJC supported this legislation as a member of the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois.

NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy issued the following statement:

“As the governor signs the Illinois Way Forward Act into law, we are grateful that Illinois lawmakers recognize the role state and local governments can play in upholding due process for immigrants, opposing the unjust ICE detention and deportations, and defending Illinoisans against permanent family separation and deportation. This law is a result of years of persistent work by a broad coalition of immigrant communities and advocates. Together, we will now turn to the next phase of this work: ensuring that, as Illinois jails end their ICE contracts, the people who have been detained under those contracts are released to reunite with their families and pursue their immigration cases from their own communities and with access to legal counsel. We look forward to joining with local and national partners to call on the Biden administration to avoid transferring individuals from these jails into other dangerous ICE detention centers which continue to operate in other states, and to demonstrate that our communities are ready and able to welcome migrants from all backgrounds without relying on detention.”

About the Illinois Way Forward Act:

Sponsored by Sen. Omar Aquino and Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, the legislation builds on the foundation of the TRUST Act of 2017 by creating new restrictions on local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with ICE. Under the new law, beginning January 1, 2022, jails in McHenry, Kankakee, and Pulaski counties will begin the process of ending their ICE detention contracts. The law also:

  • Strengthens the Illinois VOICES Act of 2018, which set guidelines for how local law enforcement agencies should respond when immigrant survivors of crime request certification, the first step in a lengthy process of applying for immigration legal protection known as a U visa. Local law enforcement agencies will now be required to provide a written explanation if they deny a U visa certification request, and an individual will be allowed to appeal the denial.
  • Gives the Illinois Attorney General authority to investigate law enforcement agencies that violate any of the provisions in the Illinois Way Forward, the TRUST Act of 2017, and the VOICES Act.
  • Further decouples local law enforcement from ICE enforcement and surveillance actions by specifically outlining what local resources and facilities can be made available to ICE agents and immigration enforcement agents.