Daily Journal

DWIGHT — A project to build a federal immigration center in Dwight that was presumably dead after a state law was passed in June 2019 seems to be moving forward, if a letter received this week by village officials is any indication.

Village President Jared Anderson received a letter from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding an environmental assessment of the site for a previously proposed 127,000-square-foot facility that would house 1,000 detainees awaiting deportation hearings. The site is an 80-acre parcel near Interstate 55 and Illinois Route 17.

The Dwight Village Board approved the zoning and annexation for the land use with a 5-2 vote in March 2019 at a tense meeting which drew about 200 people, many of whom came from outside the area to protest the plan.

In the following months, the Illinois House and Senate passed legislation that would ban privatized immigration detention centers in Illinois. That bill was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in June 2019. Banning the development of private, for-profit detention centers in the state, the law put an end to the project in Dwight. It also prohibited local governments from contracting or having any financial transactions with such a facility, except for providing food, medical care or other ancillary services, according to a June 2019 report from Capitol News Illinois.

Illinois was the first state to forbid the practice. At the time of the signing, Pritzker made it clear he intended for Illinois policies on dealing with immigration to stand in sharp contrast with those of President Donald Trump. The bill signing came at a time when Trump was directing ICE to begin mass roundups of migrant families facing deportation orders.

CBS Chicago 2 reported that it obtained the letter, which Anderson confirmed to the Daily Journal that he received it as well.

“We received the letter that different news agencies are reporting,” Anderson said in an email to the Daily Journal. “It just stated that an environmental assessment is planned to be done.”

The letter from ICE dated July 23, 2020, came with this subject: “Preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) proposed contract award for the procurement of detention services at a Contractor owned/ Contractor operated Detention Facility to be constructed in Livingston County, IL.”

Anderson told the Journal that village officials “are still in the understanding that [state] legislation passed last year prohibits private detention centers.”

Dwight is located 30 miles west of Kankakee in Livingston County.

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