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Advocates Say Illinois Ban on Private Immigrant Detention Centers, a 'Firewall' Against Trump's Attacks on Immigrants, Should Be Model for Country

"We will not allow private entities to profit off of the intolerance of this president."

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed a package of legislation on Friday that aims to enhance protections for undocumented state residents. (Photo: @GovPritzker/Twitter)

Critics of President Donald Trump's immigration policies are calling on state and federal lawmakers to follow the lead of Illinois, which banned private immigrant detention centers and enacted other protections for undocumented state residents ahead of the president's deportation raids that were planned for Sunday but have been temporarily delayed.

"In the face of attempts to stoke fear, exploit division, and force families into the shadows, we are taking action."
—Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker

On Friday, Democratic Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed three bills into law that aim to enhance protections for migrant families in Illinois—just a day before Trump turned to Twitter to announce that "at the request of Democrats" in Congress, he had postponed for two weeks U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids planned for 10 major cities including Chicago.

"Let me be perfectly clear: the state of Illinois stands as a firewall against Donald Trump's attacks on our immigrant communities," Pritzker said in a statement. "In the face of attempts to stoke fear, exploit division, and force families into the shadows, we are taking action."

In addition to making Illinois the first state to outlaw private immigrant detention facilities, the state's new legislation also prohibits local law enforcement agencies from engaging in federal immigration enforcement with ICE and allows undocumented and transgender students to receive Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants and other aid at public education institutions.

"We will not allow private entities to profit off of the intolerance of this president," said Pritzker. "We will not allow local police departments [to] act as an extension of ICE. And we will ensure that every student in this state who wants to go to college should be able to do so without saddling themselves with debt for the rest of their lives."

Recently elected Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, took action against the anticipated raids on Friday by instructing the police superintendent to cut off ICE's access to the department's databases related to federal immigration enforcement activities. Lightfoot also vowed that the city's police officers "will not cooperate with or facilitate any ICE enforcement actions."

"Chicago will always be a welcoming city and a champion for the rights of our immigrant and refugee communities," Lightfoot tweeted, "and I encourage any resident in need of legal aid to contact the National Immigrant Justice Center."

Despite Trump's decision to hold off on the raids for a short period to give federal lawmakers more time to debate national asylum policy, The Washington Post reported Sunday that "faith and immigration leaders said they will continue to mobilize for roundups in case talks between the White House and congressional Democrats break down."

"We're ready. We're going to be vigilant," Richard Morales, director of the immigrant rights campaign for the national network Faith in Action, told the Post. "Whether it happens today or it happens in two weeks, our congregation, our clergy, they're ready to respond."

Trump's threats of deportation raids and the response from Illinois Democrats have provoked calls for lawmakers at various levels of government nationwide to stand up to the administration.

Such calls also came from lawmakers. In a tweet Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) praised Illinois policymakers for their recent moves and promoted similar federal legislation she is sponsoring: the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act of 2019, which would "provide standards for facilities at which aliens in the custody of the Department of Homeland Security are detained, and for other purposes."

As Common Dreams reported Saturday, four other progressive House Democrats—Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.)—announced they would not support legislation introduced by their own party that would provide additional funding to Trump's "deportation force."

"We must abolish ICE," they said in a statement. "We must invest in community-based alternatives to detention. We must end the system of mass detention and deportation of immigrants. We must create an immigration system that reflects our values and respects the dignity and humanity of all."

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