Gov. JB Pritzker signed four bills into law this month that he believes will help make Illinois “the most welcoming state in the United States” for immigrants.
Most consequential is the law that targets local government agreements with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement where jails house immigrant detainees awaiting court hearings. Current contracts must end by January 2022 and new agreements are prohibited. McHenry County is one of three Illinois counties – Kankakee and Pulaski are the others – that have such agreements at jails.
“Throughout my governorship, I’ve directed my administration to adopt policies that make Illinois a welcoming state for immigrants, and I’m very proud to sign these accountability measures into law to advance our cause,” Pritzker said.
The governor’s ideals are lofty and he has followed through on his promises, but it is not up to a single state to solve the problems of immigration for an entire country. And with more than 1 million arrests of migrants already this year at the U.S.-Mexico border, our country continues to face significant challenges that aren’t going to be fixed easily.
The federal government’s immigration policies are far from humane. And Illinois’ new immigration laws, no matter how welcoming, may only make matters worse.
For example, barring detention centers from Illinois could mean ICE moves detainees in our state farther from their families.
That’s really up to ICE and whether it wants to send a message to other states thinking about following in Illinois’ footsteps. As one former immigration judge told the Northwest Herald, the agency could let some detainees go or send them to another facility in Wisconsin – or a different facility all the way in Louisiana.
Consider the case of Cesar Elizarraraz-Soto, 41, of Crystal Lake, who has been in America since he was a child. He has been detained at McHenry County Jail’s immigration detention center for two years. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit denied a request to stay his deportation to Mexico while his appeal is pending. As late as June, he was one of the 126 immigration detainees held at McHenry County Jail.
The court did not give a reason for denying the stay of removal, leaving his family to wonder whether it was due to a criminal conviction Elizarraraz-Soto received as a juvenile. His family now lives with uncertainty, not knowing when, or if, they will be reunited, Borderless Magazine reported in June.
The effects of Elizarraraz-Soto’s deportation would extend to his fiancé, Kristin Glauner of Crystal Lake, and their five children, ages 19 to 4.
Elizarraraz-Soto was arrested in September 2019 on charges of theft and selling used cars without a license. Prosecutors dismissed the theft charge in 2019, and Elizarraraz-Soto accepted a plea deal that April. In exchange for his guilty plea to selling used cars without a license, he was sentenced to one year of court supervision. Now, he faces deportation.
It’s stories like Elizarraraz-Soto’s that prove a long-term solution to immigration must be found.
The contract McHenry County has with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has its downsides for immigrants locally, but we have real concerns that just eliminating it will hurt the very people it’s trying to help.
What’s needed is a rational, consistent and accountable policy for all that views immigrants as people seeking a better life in the best country in the world. We need a bipartisan solution to immigration that is sustainable, protects our citizens and is fair to those who seek to legally become citizens.
Just saying “welcome” isn’t the answer.