Federal Appeals Court Blocks Illinois Ban on Immigration Detention
FAIR Take | January 2022
In 2021, Illinois became the second state after California to ban immigration detention contracts. The legislation banned local jails or private facilities from contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house illegal aliens during the deportation process. Recently a federal appeals court temporarily prevented Illinois’ detention ban from going into effect. This court decision follows a similar ruling in California.
The so-called “Illinois Way Forward Act,” Senate Bill (SB) 667, dramatically expanded the state’s already sweeping sanctuary laws. One of the provisions included in SB 667 was the immigration detention ban. The bill passed the legislature in June and was signed into law in August by Governor J.B. Pritzker (D).
The detention ban would have forced Kankakee, McHenry, and Pulaski Counties to end their immigration detention contracts with ICE depriving these counties of federal revenues. McHenry County’s detention contract alone “brings in roughly $10 million annually, a significant source of money and jobs for the northern Illinois county along the Wisconsin border with a roughly $200 million annual budget.”
Additionally, the bill would have caused the elimination of well-paying detention jobs at a time when the counties are beginning to rally from COVID-19 related losses.
While Pulaski County voluntarily terminated its ICE contract, McHenry and Kankakee counties sued the state arguing that SB 667 unconstitutionally usurped the supremacy of federal law over the issue of immigration.
Senior U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard, a George H.W. Bush appointee, dismissed the counties’ suit on December 7 holding that the legislation “limited local officials, not the federal government.” On December 30, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Illinois, stopped Reinhard’s dismissal order while the appeal is considered.
This suit follows a similar pattern to what happened in California when that state attempted to ban immigration detention. In that case, instead of counties suing the state, private contractors did. Like in Illinois, a district judge upheld the state law and dismissed the suit. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal, ruling that the state was “not simply exercising its traditional police powers, … but rather impeding federal immigration policy.”
Besides California and Illinois, two other states have enacted legislation to ban ICE detention contracts – New Jersey and Maryland. New Jersey’s ban is currently being litigated. In Maryland, the state legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to ban ICE detention contracts, however, the legislation could be placed on the ballot for a vote.