With the clock ticking on whether a bill to effectively halt an immigrant detention center in Crete passes the Illinois General Assembly, the Illinois House member who represents Crete unloaded on that town’s Village Board for not taking a clear position on the matter.
“They have failed their residents and they have failed me as a representative,” State Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) told Progress Illinois. “There is a lack of courage and a lack of leadership on the part of village trustees.”
Maintaining that he will follow the desires of Crete residents, DeLuca has so far remained neutral on both the proposal from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to put an 800-bed detention center in Crete, population 9,000, and an ensuing state bill to block the detention center.
The bill bans the facility via a moratorium on for-profit detention centers – ICE slated the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, a for-profit contractor headquartered in Nashville, to operate the site.
Written by State Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago), the bill cleared the Illinois Senate in April and the House Executive Committee in early May. It is now on the House floor, but the House sponsor Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago) has not called a vote, and it is not clear when he will – a call to the representative’s office today was not immediately returned.
While the most powerful people in state government – Gov. Pat Quinn and Speaker of the House Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) – support the bill, it is usually assumed that the Crete Village Board is a major bill opponent.
Board head Michael Einhorn, the mayor of Crete, previously touted the local jobs that might come from the detention center. And Einhorn told the Associated Press that the state “is going to extreme measures” by working against the facility.
But, according to DeLuca, Einhorn and the board have not made clear their bill opposition to either state lawmakers or the residents of Crete. Residents, meanwhile, are conflicted about the facility, with a group – Concerned Citizens of Crete – set up to oppose the center.
“I sent a letter to the village last week – a strongly worded letter – that said if you want me to represent your interests you have to tell me what your interests are,” DeLuca says. But all the board did, DeLuca said, was criticize the letter. “The board has made a decision to wait and see what the state does,” DeLuca says.
A call to the village board and message left with Einhorn was not immediately returned.
The General Assembly is supposed to wrap its spring legislative session next week and after that lawmakers will probably not meet again until a fall veto session. Consequently, bill supporters and foes are doubling down.
The Illinois Coalition on Immigrant and Refugee Rights, which supports the bill, has “robo called” people in his district, DeLuca acknowledged. Meanwhile, the CCA increased their state legislative lobbying presence, according to Capitol Fax.
Supporters of the bill banning the center say that a for-profit detention center means putting profits over the humane treatment of detainees. Also, the bill's supporters are upset with ICE, as the agency has increased detentions and deportations during Barack Obama's presidency.
Bill opponents, like the Will and Grundy Trades Council, point to the detention center’s potential for local building jobs. Also, ICE argues that detainees apprehended in Chicago will benefit from a detention center that is closer to their families and closer to legal resources for immigrants.