SPRINGFIELD — A bill that would ban for-profit immigrant detention centers in Illinois — like one proposed in Dwight in Livingston County — is now on its way to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The Illinois Senate has voted 34-14 to pass House Bill 2020. It previously passed the House on April 10 by an 85-26 vote.

The bill would prohibit the state or any local unit of government from entering into any agreement to detain people in privately owned facilities. It also prohibits them from spending any money to subsidize or defray the costs of developing or operating one.

It would take effect immediately if signed by Pritzker.

The bill was introduced in response to a proposal to build a private federal detention center in Dwight.

In March, the Village Board voted to annex and rezone an 88-acre parcel of land where Virginia-based Immigration Centers of America planned to build and operate a $20 million detention center on a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICA is one of several companies awaiting the Department of Homeland Security’s issuance of a request for proposal for the Illinois/Chicago area, the first step to building the facility, said Frank Cortina, an attorney from Morris who represented the company in the annexation discussions earlier this year.

If the detention center is built on the parcel of land, located south of state Route 17 and east of Interstate 55 just outside the Livingston County village, up to 1,200 immigrants would be housed there.

Illinois has prohibited the development of private prisons since 2012. The new legislation would expand that law to include private detention centers. However, it would not apply to state work release centers or juvenile residential facilities that provide care and treatment by nonprofit contractors.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat, was the lead sponsor in the House. Earlier this year, she called the bill “critically important” to Illinois remaining “welcoming” to all people.

“There is an effort afoot to bring a private, for-profit ICE detention center to the state of Illinois,” she said March 22. “… We said ‘slow your roll. Hold up here. That’s not who we are, that’s not how we operate. We don’t believe in making money out of putting humans in cages, and we’re going to do everything we can to stop the advance of this effort.’”

Dwight Village President Jared Anderson could not be reached for comment Friday.

Supporters previously said the proposed $20 million project could bring as many as 400 construction jobs, and fully staffed, it would offer about 360 positions. Future construction also could benefit through the construction of a sewer line for northwestern Dwight.

Despite the annexation of property and association with ICA, there is no guarantee the center would be built in Dwight.

“This is by no means a done deal for Dwight or Immigration Centers of America,” said Dwight Village Administrator Kevin McNamara in March. “RFPs must be issued and then (ICA) must be the successful bidder, for lack of a better term. The village’s steps ... merely just guarantees that ICA has a location to submit.”

Pantagraph staff contributed to this report.


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