Jerome Combs Detention Center

Jerome Combs Detention Center

KANKAKEE — A lawsuit that sought to stop a new state law ending partnerships between counties and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been dismissed by a federal judge.

In September, the Kankakee County Board joined the lawsuit filed by McHenry County as both counties operate facilities that house ICE detainees. U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard’s ruling, though, clears the way to end housing ICE detainees at the two counties’ jails.

The ruling was announced Monday.

McHenry State’s Attorney Patrick D. Kenneally and McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim said in a joint statement following the ruling that they intend to appeal the district court’s decision. They’ll now look to the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for a stay on enforcement of the Illinois Way Forward Act.

The act, signed into law Aug. 2 by Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, requires that existing agreements between ICE and jails in McHenry, Pulaski and Kankakee counties end by Jan. 1. It also prohibits any future agreements. The dismissed lawsuit argued in part that the law violates both the U.S. and Illinois constitutions, as well as violates intergovernmental immunity.

“The court’s ruling is a blow to local governmental control, as well as the supremacy of the U.S Constitution, against a clear case of overreach by the General Assembly and Governor Pritzker,” McHenry County Board Chairman Mike Buehler said in a statement.

Financial impact

As the two counties are paid for holding ICE detainees, officials in both say the end of the agreements will have a detrimental financial impact.

“Far from helping the immigrant community,” Buehler said, “the forced Jan. 1 ending of our contract with the federal government to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees will cause significant hardship on detainees’ families, as well as the taxpayers of McHenry County.”

For the fiscal years 2016 through 2020, Kankakee County averaged 122 detainees per day. At those rates, according to the lawsuit, the county would lose nearly $4 million in revenue annually. In McHenry County, the jail averages 240 ICE detainees per year and has received $8 million in revenues annually since 2016.

Both counties have argued that the loss of revenue would result in lost jobs at their respective correctional facilities.

Kankakee County has had an agreement in place with ICE since March 2016 and renewed it in 2019, while McHenry’s began in 2003.

When contacted by the Daily Journal after the ruling, Kankakee County officials said they plan to release a statement Wednesday.

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at and 815-937-3366.


Jeff Bonty has worked for The Daily Journal since September 1986, starting in the sports department before moving to news reporting in 2002. He's a native of Indiana and graduate of Purdue University. His email is