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Illinois Senate passes bill to prohibit jails in the state from housing ICE detainees

File Photo – McHenry County Jail in Woodstock. | Photo: Google Street View.

The Illinois Senate has advanced a bill to prohibit jails in Illinois from housing ICE detainees and severely limit local law enforcement from working with federal immigration agents.

Senate Bill 667 — which is being called the “Illinois Way Forward Act” — was passed 36-19 on Friday.

The bill says that no law enforcement agency and state or local government may enter into or renew any contract to hold or detain someone for federal immigration violations.

If the bill passes the house, any law enforcement agency or government in the state must terminate their agreement to house ICE detainees by January 1, 2022.

McHenry, Kankakee and Pulaski counties currently have contracts with ICE to house immigrants at their county jails. McHenry County is paid $95 per day per ICE detainee, officials have said.

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The bill also says that law enforcement agencies cannot provide information to federal immigration agents or transfer any person into their custody. Law enforcement would also not be able to ask anyone their immigration status.

The McHenry County Board voted on May 18 to keep the county jail’s contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement following protests from people who wanted the county to end their contract.

In a 15-8 vote, the board voted against the resolution to cancel the contract by November 1. The vote came following more than a year of discussion regarding the issue.

The McHenry County Board convenes for a regular meeting May 18, 2021, to vote whether to cancel the county’s ICE contract. | Provided Photo.

McHenry County has maintained a contract since 2005 with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house a number of federal detainees, the majority of which were for immigration issues.

Revenue from the contract is used to offset costs in the McHenry County Jail.

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In 2015, the county board approved a modified contract that continued the relationship but on a month-to-month basis.

Calls to look into the county’s willingness to continue the contract resurfaced again in early 2020.

McHenry County Board Chairman Michael Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, said earlier in May that he supports the board’s decision to keep the contract in place.

“Tonight’s decision reaffirms our commitment to continue working in collaboration with our federal partners to ensure national security, border security, and public safety,” Buehler said.

“Immigration is a federal issue, and any decision made by the McHenry County Board regarding its ICE contract does not amend federal immigration laws as they relate to the detention of non-citizens. Without a mandate handed down from the federal government, which has the authority to change laws of this nature, our role is to adhere to federal statutes,” Buehler said.

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Senate Bill 667 still has to pass the Illinois House before it can be signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. It is unclear when that might happen.