DC attorney general backing Illinois law that limits federal immigration detention

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine led a group of 16 attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the court brief Friday that defends a law prohibiting state and local governments from contracting with the federal government to detain individuals for civil immigration violations.

Passed in August 2021, the Illinois Way Forward Act prohibits the state or local government entities from entering into, or renewing, agreements to house individuals detained for federal civil immigration violations. It also requires Illinois state or local government entities that have such agreements to end them.



Two Illinois counties, McHenry and Kankakee, have agreements like this with the U.S. Marshals Service that can also be used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for immigration detention purposes.

The counties sued the state to try to block the Act, in an effort to continue providing their facilities for federal civil immigration detention.

In the brief, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the multi-state coalition argues that Illinois’ act should be upheld because it doesn’t conflict with federal immigration law.

“Law enforcement leaders agree that establishing trust with the public helps keep communities safe,” Racine said in a news release.

“Our coalition argues that states have broad authority to implement policies that promote public safety, prevent crime, and facilitate positive interactions between local law enforcement and all residents, regardless of immigration status,” Racine said. “That is exactly what Illinois has done by limiting state and local involvement in federal immigration detention.”

He was joined Friday by state attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Racine previously led a coalition of 18 attorneys general defending a New Jersey policy that limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

The brief can be read in its entirety online.

Lauren Hamilton

Lauren Hamilton is an Associate Producer at WTOP and a graduate of the University of Maryland. She enjoys covering the intersection of arts, culture and social justice in local communities. She began as an intern with WTOP in the summer of 2021.

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