Jerome Combs Detention Center

Jerome Combs Detention Center

KANKAKEE — Detainees being held at Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee through an agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will soon be moved to another facility outside of Illinois or released.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago denied any further stay of the enforcement of the Illinois state law requiring an end to existing agreements between ICE and jail facilities at the close of 2021.

The law was signed in August by Gov. JB Pritzker and affected McHenry, Pulaski and Kankakee counties, which have detention centers that house ICE detainees. It also prohibited any future agreements.

The law was to take effect Jan. 1. The federal court granted a two-week extension on Dec. 30 for an appeal to be considered. That stay ended Thursday.

The federal court’s order said: “We now DENY any further stay pending appeal, and we will allow the current stay to expire at noon on Jan. 13, 2022. We conclude that the counties have not made a ‘strong showing’ that they are likely to succeed on the merits. Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434 (2009).”

Earlier in September, Kankakee County joined a lawsuit which challenged the state law, but the case was dismissed by a federal judge on Dec. 6.

Kankakee County Sheriff Mike Downey said there were 26 detainees still in Jerome Combs on Thursday.

“ICE is aware, and ICE knows that they have to remove the detainees from our jail,” he said. “They were working on that when I talked to them [Thursday] morning.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the plaintiffs [Kankakee and McHenry counties] “have not demonstrated a likelihood that the district court erred in holding that the Illinois Act is not preempted by federal law because the Act does not attempt to prevent or govern existing contracts between the federal government and private entities.”

Also, the federal court concluded “that the counties have not shown that they are threatened with imminent irreparable harm or that the balance of harms or the public interest favors an injunction pending appeal. The counties have not shown that they will lose substantial revenue absent an injunction or that this loss of revenue is permanent. Illinois’s public interest in enforcing its statute weighs against an injunction pending appeal.”

For fiscal years 2016 through 2020, Kankakee County averaged 122 ICE detainees per day. At those rates, according to the lawsuit, the county would lose nearly $4 million in revenue annually.

Downey said nothing has been discussed about appealing the decision to the Supreme Court at this point.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “There are people in our country illegally and have committed crimes. … Our legislature and governor continue to keep our streets unsafe. It’s frustrating for law enforcement.”

Downey said some of the detainees have committed serious crimes.

“There are people who think that we should accommodate everyone no matter what they’ve done,” he said. “That makes our streets unsafe.”

Associate Editor

Chris Breach is the Associate Editor of The Daily Journal and the editor of the business section. A graduate of Indiana University, Breach has more than 25 years experience in newspapers. He can be reached at cbreach@daily-journal.com.