top of page

General Assembly Approves Ban on Private Detention Facilities in Illinois

Cara Yi


Thu May 16 2019

General Assembly Approves Ban on Private Detention Facilities in Illinois


SPRINGFIELD (May 16, 2019)--The Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois celebrates a major victory today as the Illinois Senate voted 34-14 to approve HB 2040, the Private Detention Facility Moratorium Act.


The vote comes as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seeks to further increase its detention capacity, and as private prison companies seek to profit from ICE contracts. House Bill 2040 bars state and local government agencies from contracting or exchanging payments with private prison companies for any detention purposes, including federal immigration detention.  


“This legislation sends a strong signal that no one should profit from human misery,” said Lawrence Benito, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which co-convenes the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois. “Those who seek financial gain by jailing people who are seeking refuge and by tearing apart our families have no business in our state.”


“As someone who was separated from my biological mother as a child, I know the pain of family separation,” said Senator Robert Peters (D-13), chief Senate sponsor of the bill.  “I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for approving this bill to stop needlessly separating other families for the profit of others.”


This legislation extends the existing state moratorium on for-profit prisons for correctional and criminal custody, which the General Assembly passed and Governor Jim Edgar signed in 1990. HB 2040 also covers civil detention, which includes immigration detention in privately owned and operated facilities.


“Private prisons are bad actors any way you look at it,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-14), chief sponsor of HB 2040 in the Illinois House, which approved the bill on April 10 with overwhelming bipartisan support. “Private prison companies abuse detainees and workers and are unaccountable to the public. As a state, we already do not allow these companies to hold people in criminal custody, and we should not allow them to hold people for civil or immigration purposes either.”


HB 2040 responds to multiple attempts by private prison companies to build a for-profit immigration detention center in the Chicago region. Since 2011, at least eight proposals have emerged in Illinois and Indiana. After all previous proposals failed in the face of local opposition, the village of Dwight approved a proposal by Immigration Centers of America in March. That proposal, for a 1200-bed facility, would have doubled ICE detention capacity in the Chicago region.


“For-profit facilities like the one proposed in Dwight are unnecessary and harmful,” said Melanie Schikore, executive director of the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, which runs visitation programs at four county jails that house immigration detainees as well as the Marie Joseph House of Hospitality for immigrants released from federal immigration custody. “The people we see in detention pose no harm to our communities.  Rather than keeping them detained, especially for profit, we should be providing care and respect.”


The National immigrant Justice Center, which helped draft and provided testimony in support of HB 2040, highlighted the Marie Joseph House in its recent report A Better Way: Community-Based Programming as an Alternative to Immigrant Incarceration.


The Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois, a diverse grassroots coalition dedicated to making Illinois a truly welcoming state for immigrants, worked closely with Rep. Cassidy and Sen. Peters to pass HB 2040. The campaign mobilized two advocacy days in Springfield in March and April and organized thousands of witness slips in favor of the bill when it came up for committee hearings.


“When we heard about the Dwight proposal, we saw the threat it posed to our community,” said Elizabeth Cervantes, co-director of the Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project and member of the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois. “We brought our leaders to Dwight to speak out against the proposal, and then went to Springfield to push for HB 2040.  We are very happy that the General Assembly has passed this bill, and we urge Governor Pritzker to sign it quickly.”




The Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois is an alliance of more than 85 organizations that seeks to pass state-level legislation to ensure that immigrants can fully participate in U.S. society.

Back to News

bottom of page