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Illinois Lawmakers Say ICE Detention Center In Dwight Would Be Illegal, But Plans Are Going Ahead Anyway

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Plans to build a sprawling federal immigration center 90 miles southwest of Chicago are moving forward.

But there is one big problem. As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Tuesday, lawmakers say opening it would be illegal.

The plans to move ahead seem like a flagrant attempt to ignore Illinois law, or at the very least, sidestep it for now. And it could signal the beginning of a showdown between lawmakers and the federal government.

"It's infuriating," said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago). "The impunity of it is really disgusting."

Cassidy is using her danger to fuel a fight, if needed. The Chicago lawmaker is reeling after learning from a CBS 2 story that Immigration Centers of America – a for-profit detention operator, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, are still going ahead with plans to build in Dwight.

This move comes a year after Cassidy helped pass a law making those for-profit facilities illegal.

"So it's been abundantly clear that this site cannot move forward; that this project in the State of Illinois cannot move forward since last June. And yet, completely ignoring that, they've started this process back up," Cassidy said.

A letter obtained by CBS 2 outlines plans for the facility once an environmental assessment is complete. It would sit just east of Interstate 55 outside Dwight's downtown, and would bring 362 jobs to the struggling area.

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"I can appreciate the situation that Dwight is in," Cassidy said. "I want them to get development that they deserve. I want them to get real and humane development."

Dwight Village President Jared Anderson said he is aware of the law passed last year, adding that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, contacted them about proceeding with the plans.

When pushed about why facility plans are proceeding anyway, Anderson would only say ICE is aware of the law, bringing it back to that possible showdown.

"We absolutely have the ability to tell units of local that they can't engage in this," Cassidy said, "and that's how this law is crafted."

In the past, before the law was enacted, Anderson said he wanted the facility built.

Kozlov reached out repeatedly to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security. Late Tuesday, an ICE official said it would be inappropriate to comment because no contract has yet been awarded.

But considering that plans are clearing moving ahead for the facility in some capacity, Cassidy has reached out to Illinois General Kwame Raoul and Gov. JB Pritzker, and also called U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois). But what happens now if ICE and the DHS move forward is a little bit unknown, as this is uncharted territory.


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