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Democrats Push Ban On For-Profit Detention Center in Dwight, Across Illinois

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy speaks
Seth Perlman
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Democrat from Chicago.

Illinois House Democrats are pushing for a ban on for-profit immigrant detention centers like the one that’s been proposed in Dwight, calling them “financially and morally irresponsible.”

The bill introduced by state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, would prohibit the state or local governments from operating private detention facilities. It would also prohibit governments from entering into contracts with, paying or receiving money from a privately owned or managed facility.

Cassidy said her bill is a response to a “resurgence of municipalities and local governments attempting to approve new for-profit and privately operated detention centers that would target immigrants.”

“Detention centers only confine those detained and cause more suffering to people who are going through one of the (most) difficult times they will face in their life,” Cassidy said in a statement. “The holding of a person, whether for a crime or for their immigration status, in a facility that will earn money for holding them is financially and morally irresponsible.”

Dwight, a village of 4,200 residents in Livingston County, recently approved an annexation agreement to allow for a 1,200-bed federal immigration detention center to be built on 88 acres west of Interstate 55. If approved by the federal government, it would be built by Immigration Centers for America and become Illinois’ first privately operated detention center.

The $20 million project has drawn opposition from the group No ICE Dwight. Supporters say it’ll create good-paying jobs in a town that lost one of its largest employers (a state prison) in 2013.

After a recent Dwight Village Board vote in favor of the project, No ICE Dwight said it was now seeking other ways to stop the project. That includes choking off funding for privately run facilities, whether through Congress or private industry.

Cassidy’s bill would be another approach. HB 2040 passed out of the House Labor and Commerce Committee this week and awaits a vote in the full House.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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