McHenry County’s effort to overcome the Democrats’ state law forcing the closure of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers run by county governments was upheld by the Federal District Court.
Pending the possibility of an appeal,. that means ICE detainees will be relocated from the McHenry County Jail by New Year’s Day.
Reaction from the County Board is below:
Statement Regarding Dismissal of Federal Lawsuit to Keep ICE Detainee Contract
WOODSTOCK, Ill. – The following is a statement from McHenry County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, regarding Monday’s dismissal of the county’s lawsuit to stop implementation of the Illinois Way Forward Act:
“The court’s ruling is a blow to local governmental control, as well as the supremacy of the US Constitution, against a clear case of overreach by the General Assembly and Governor Pritzker.
“Far from helping the immigrant community, the forced Jan. 1 ending of our contract with the federal government to house US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees will cause significant hardship on detainees’ families, as well as the taxpayers of McHenry County.”
McHenry County and Kankakee County filed suit Sept. 1 in US District Court to challenge the Act, and to seek an injunction to delay its end-of-year deadline while the case was heard.
“McHenry County first entered into the federal contract in 2005 to hold detainees on a per-diem basis at the County Jail.
“The counties’ lawsuit maintained that the Act violates the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution – which prohibits states from interfering with the federal government’s exercise of its constitutional powers – as well as case precedents forbidding state and federal government from intruding on each other’s sovereignty.
“McHenry County has housed a daily average of 240 ICE detainees between 2016 and 2020, resulting in an average annual revenue of $8 million, which has helped fund services and prevented tax increases.
“However, the forced termination of the contract does not mean that ICE will be releasing its detainees from the County Jail – they will be relocated to facilities in other states.
“Families of detainees will now have to travel much farther to visit while their loved ones await their hearings, and the loss of revenue from the contract will hurt residents countywide in the form of diminished services or potential tax increases in future years.
“McHenry County will appeal the court’s ruling to the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals. In the meantime, it will inform ICE that it cannot accept new immigration detainees after Dec. 31.
“The General Assembly, in the final day of session, rammed through a flawed, unconstitutional and overreaching bill for the sole purpose of making a political statement that it disagrees with existing federal immigration policy.
“Far from a harmless and symbolic measure, this legislation will put real hurt on our taxpayers, as well as on the
families of detainees, who will soon have to travel to other states to visit them at facilities that may not have the County Jail’s exceptional and nationally recognized safety and living standards.
“I’m hopeful that our appeal will be successful,” Buehler said.
“The McHenry County Jail is one of only four county jails in Illinois to have American Correctional Association accreditation, which is awarded for having the highest and most stringent standards for “protection, safety, and humanity.”
“Contrary to the General Assembly’s rushed bill, the County Board spent a year studying and thoughtfully deliberating whether the ICE contract should be continued, before voting in May to keep it.”
Reaction from McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally is below:
STATEMENT REGARDING DISMISSAL OF FEDERAL LAWSUIT TO KEEP ICE DETAINEE CONTRACT
We intend to appeal the decision of the District Court.
We will initially seek a stay of enforcement of the Illinois Way Forward Act before the District Court and, thereafter, seek a hearing on the issues in front of the Seventh Circuit United States Court of Appeals.
While we are disappointed with the outcome and obviously disagree, we wish to thank Judge Reinhardt for his thoughtful decision.
We also think it is useful to briefly recount how we got here.
The McHenry County Board voted overwhelmingly on March 18, 2021, to maintain the federal contract that allows our local jail to house immigrants facing deportation proceedings.
In other words, the elected representatives in the community affected by the contract voted that it is in the best interest of constituents for the contract to be maintained.
This is one of two contracts in the entire State, the other having been ratified in Kankakee County.
Less than two months later and in response to the McHenry County Board vote, the Illinois Way
Forward Act was passed.
The bill was spearheaded by unelected immigrant activist groups and nearly every sponsor of the Bill was from Cook County.
The Illinois Way Forward Act is another example of how the current legislative assembly is likely one of the most partisan and dogmatically rigid in Illinois history – a legislative assembly that has precious little time for the perspectives of the residents in outlying counties like McHenry and Kankakee.
As such and when legally tenable, we at the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office will continue to push back against the obscurity and futility that the Chicago bulwark in Springfield wishes to consign us to.
Moreover, it is worth reiterating that the Illinois Way Forward does not help ICE detainees.
Most detainees held by ICE at the McHenry County Jail previously resided in Illinois, Wisconsin, or Northwest Indiana. The termination of these contracts will not result in the release of detainees.
Rather, they will merely be transferred to other ICE facilities as far away as Louisiana, with more crowding, and with less favorable safety standards than the McHenry County Jail.