New law limits Illinois police cooperation with ICE, closes detainment centers

Critics of the legislation say it will cost jobs and makes Illinois a sanctuary state.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Local law enforcement agencies will be limited in how they cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and migrant detainment centers across the state will be closed after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 667 into law. Critics of the legislation say it will cost jobs and makes Illinois a sanctuary state.

Known as the Way Forward Act, the bill was filed by state Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, to provide what he said was protection for immigrants who might be in the U.S. illegally from local law enforcement officers.

The legislation was an initiative by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Fred Tsao, senior policy counsel with the immigrant rights group, said the legislation is the product of years of hard work.

"This law is the culmination of ten years of hard work to try and set a limit on collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Tsao said.

The new law will help communities by taking the fear out of dealing with the police, Tsao said.

"This legislation allows immigrants to safely interact with their local police departments," he said. "If an immigrant is a victim of criminal activity or a witness to criminal activity, they can go to the police without fear of coming under suspicion."

The legislation will restrict local police departments ICE from working with ICE agents in the state. Restrictions on participation in raids, sharing of information and the end of detainment camps will be some of the new rules for local police and immigration.

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Teutopolis, has taken issue with the Way Forward Act, specifically with the closing of detainment centers across the state. The closure of these centers, Niemerg said, could lead to job cuts and revenue losses for the counties that house them.

"Look at Pulaski County, there are about 80 jobs with the detainment center in a county of about 5,000 people," Niemerg said. "These good-paying jobs are going to be lost due to this legislation."

State Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Harrisburg, also has spoken out against the new legislation, saying immigrants in federal custody will be sent out of state and away from their families once these detainment centers close.

“We would then as a state lose the ability to have oversight on what is going on in those facilities as it relates to detainees. They could end up in another state that might not be as friendly,” Windhorst said.

Lawrence Benito, executive director for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee rights, called the new act a win for immigrant communities.

“This marks a win for immigrant communities, as we are one step closer to making Illinois the most welcoming state in the nation,” Benito said. “We thank the senators who listened to our communities and voted yes on Illinois Way Forward.”