It has been said that in the face of Congress’ general inability to reach agreement on immigration issues, and President Trump’s anti-immigration policies, only the judicial branch of government appears to be available to protect immigrant rights. However, such statement ignores another part of our overall government system – the states. That the states can support immigrant rights was evidenced on June 21 when Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed a bill under which Illinois became the first state to ban private immigration detention centers.
The bill, HB 2040 (the “Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act”), provides, “Detention requires the exercise of coercive police powers over individuals that should not be delegated to the private sector and is distinguishable from privatization in other areas of government. It is further found that issues of liability, accountability, and cost warrant a prohibition of the ownership, operation, or management of detention facilities by private contractors within the State to the fullest extent permitted under State law. . . . Neither the State, nor any unit of local government, any county sheriff, or any agency, officer, employee, or agent thereof, shall: (1) enter into an agreement of any kind for the detention of individuals in a detention facility owned, managed, or operated, in whole or in part, by a private entity; (2) pay, reimburse, subsidize, or defray in any way any costs related to the sale, purchase, construction, development, ownership, management, or operation of a detention facility that is or will be owned, managed, or operated, in whole or in part, by a private entity; (3) receive per diem, per detainee, or any other payment related to the detention of individuals in a detention facility owned, managed, or operated, in whole or in part, by a private entity; or (4) otherwise give any financial incentive or benefit to any private entity or person in connection with the sale, purchase, construction, development, ownership, management, or operation of a detention facility that is or will be owned, managed, or operated, in whole or in part, by a private entity”.
While HB 2040 applies to all private civil detention centers (Illinois had already banned private criminal detention centers), and not expressly to private immigration detention centers, it is clear that the intended focus of HB 2040 was private immigration detention centers. First, while most private immigration detention centers in the United States are located near the southern border, a private immigration detention center had been contemplated in Dwight, Illinois before HB 2040. Second, HB 2040 was signed by Government Pritzker as part of a 3-part package of legislation, with the other 2 bills also relating to immigration issues. HB 1637 prohibits local law enforcement agencies in Illinois from engaging in Federal immigration enforcement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). HB 2691 allows undocumented (and transgender) students to qualify for certain state financial aid in Illinois.
Third, in signing all of HB 2040, HB 1637, and HB 2691, Governor Pritzker stated, “Illinois is and always will be a welcoming state . . . Let me be perfectly clear: the state of Illinois stands as a firewall against Donald Trump’s attacks on our immigrant communities. In the face of attempts to stoke fear, exploit division, and force families into the shadows, we are taking action. We will not allow private entities to profit off of the intolerance of this president. We will not allow local police departments act as an extension of ICE. And we will ensure that every student in this state who wants to go to college should be able to do so without saddling themselves with debt for the rest of their lives”.
Immigrants who reside in Illinois are fortunate to have a Governor who supports immigrant rights. However, a state can do only so much when so much of immigration law in the United States is within the control of the Federal government. In addition, many states are not as supportive of immigrant rights as Illinois. Thus, many immigrants will still need to rely on litigation and intervention by the judicial branch to avoid anti-immigrant policies, and thereby will require effective immigration counsel, such as the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, which has many years of successful experience in defending the rights of immigrants. If you are seeking to safeguard your rights as an immigrant, please contact the Law Offices of Kameli and Associates, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-233-1000, for representation.