AP NEWS

Bill aims to halt Dwight jail proposal

April 15, 2019

CHICAGO — Democratic lawmakers in Illinois want to expand a statewide embargo on private prisons to include detention centers with federal contracts to hold immigrants facing deportation.

The proposed measure comes in response to a vote by Dwight community leaders that approved a plan for a privately run immigration detention center in the village, which is 30 miles west of Kankakee.

The Illinois House passed the proposed revision to the Private Correctional Facility Moratorium Act on Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reported. The act would forbid local government from contracting with a private provider for “community correctional supervision.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is accepting bids for contracts to run detention facilities that can hold 1,000 immigrants within 80 miles of Chicago. Dwight is located about 70 miles southwest of the city.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, of Chicago, filed the bill in February. Cassidy said she hopes it will halt the Dwight plan because “profiting off putting people in cages is morally bankrupt and not something that the state of Illinois should be supporting.”

The measure also aims to prevent similar facilities from being built elsewhere, said Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, co-sponsor of the bill.

“My concern isn’t just Dwight. My concern is the entire state of Illinois,” Villanueva said.

An active immigration detention center does exist in Kankakee County, where county officials have had a contractual agreement with ICE since late 2016. Last year, the county received $4.9 million for housing ICE detainees.

Jared Anderson, the Dwight village board president, said officials are watching the progress of the bill and trying to figure out what it would mean for the contract the village already has entered into with Immigration Centers of America, the Virginia-based company behind the immigration detention center plan.

“We are not going to make a comment on anything until the state does what it wants to do,” Anderson noted.

John Truscott, a spokesman for Immigration Centers of American, said the company is moving ahead with efforts to secure a federal contract to operate in Illinois, and the language of the bill will determine whether it can build the Dwight facility.

“We will continue making progress until it’s just not feasible or we don’t get awarded the facility on the federal level,” Truscott said.

An ICE official declined to comment.