Illinois no longer holds immigrant detainees at local jails after the last two counties that had agreements with federal authorities to house them cleared facilities earlier this month.
Kankakee and McHenry counties sued in federal court last year challenging an Illinois law aimed targeting such federal contracts, effectively ending immigration detention by Jan. 1. They lost but they were allowed to delay on appeal.
Dozens of remaining detainees left the two county jails this month, according to authorities. In winding down federal contracts in recent weeks, some detainees were deported while others were released to their families or transferred to facilities in nearby states including Indiana while they await court hearings.
The Illinois law was celebrated by activists who argue that detaining people awaiting immigration hearings is inhumane and costly. They’ve pushed to have detainees released nationwide, including calling for executive action from the White House.
“Although we are here demanding releases in Illinois, we want to make it clear that our demands are not for our state alone,” Veronica Castro, deputy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said in a statement.
The two counties in the lawsuit argued they’d lose needed revenue and that ending immigration detention in Illinois would result in transferring detainees elsewhere, moving them further from their families.
A third facility that housed immigrant detainees in southern Illinois’ Pulaski County complied last year.