Aug 11 – Interfaith Vigil for Immigrant Justice

Together with the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA), Connect will be hosting an interfaith vigil for immigrant justice at Jerome Combs Detention Center this Sunday, August 11th at 1pm. Kankakee County officials, including Sheriff Mike Downey and county board members, have chosen to partner with ICE to hold detainees at Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee.  This decision makes them complicit in ICE’s atrocities, from family separation and inhumane conditions to sexual assault and even death. Many ICE detainees are long term U.S. residents whose only offense is a lack of documentation.

Find more information, see Connect’s Facebook event or JCUA’s event:

How Desolate Lie Our Borders
A Tisha B’Av Vigil for Immigrant Justice

Additional co-sponsors include:

Tru’ah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)
#IfNotNow – Chicago
Jewish Voice for Peace – Chicago
National Council of Jewish Women
HIAS Immigration & Citizenship/JCFS Chicago
J Street – Chicago

Lights for Liberty Vigil

All human beings have a right to life, liberty and dignity.

Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps will bring thousands of Americans together across the country, into the streets and into their own front yards, to protest the inhumane conditions faced by refugees.

Kankakee will be joining this movement. Join members of your community and Kankakee Connect in the parking lot where Kankakee Farmers Market meets. We will hold a short program followed by a silent vigil.

Event details
Friday, July 12th at 7:30pm
250 S. Schuyler in Kankakee
Meet at gazebo in parking lot
Please bring signs and candles.

For more information please visit the national campaign website:

Connect Responds to Sheriff Downey’s Critiques

In a June 2019 meeting of the Kankakee County Board’s Criminal Justice Committee, County Sheriff Mike Downey said that Connect had offered “an insult to every veteran who has served our country” by stating that federal administration is warring against immigrants. Downey also accused Connect of wanting violent criminals released: “If they really want people who commit sexual assault against 5-year-olds to get out of prison, then come out and say it…if they do, shame on them.” The following is Connect’s official response.

Kankakee County residents deserve better than the kind of sophomoric sensationalism displayed by Sheriff Downey in this article. Clearly no one wants violent criminals released from prison. Just as clearly, the Sheriff would rather talk about something- anything- else than the practice of holding in his jail scores of undocumented folks he describes as non criminals, many who have been in the United States for ten or twenty years contributing to their community with no infraction other than being undocumented- a $50 misdemeanor.

Sheriff Downey also suggests that dissent and the reference to the war on immigrants is an insult to veterans. This kind of faux indignation is another tired and familiar tactic, and as practiced here is transparent in the extreme. In fact our right to question authority is what defines our democracy. This attempt to present dissent as somehow disrespectful to veterans is clearly an attempt to avoid accountability. Would the Sheriff also claim that veterans were offended by the war on drugs terminology? For those suffering in overcrowded border detention centers it matters little what we choose to call it, but conditions reportedly continue to degrade. Indeed experts now say many immigrant detention facilities in the United States fit the definition of concentration camps. Sheriff Downey admits that a multitude of undocumented immigrants have been held at Jerome Combs who do not fit his definition of criminal. One we know of was a family and businessman active in his church and community employing dozens. Instead of attempting to shift the narrative, Sheriff Downey should do the right thing and stop balancing the county budget on the backs of folks who have lived and enriched their community for years with no infraction other than lack of documentation.

Sheriff Downey has suggested he is only following national immigration laws by jailing these people and washes his hands of any culpability, stating activists should direct their efforts to Washington DC. Connect Kankakee is working with our elected officials to do just that, meeting with Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, as well as our own Congresswoman Kelly, in an ongoing relationship. Sheriff Downey has discussed his relationship with ICE leadership in Washington, but we are unaware of any initiative of his on broader immigration reform with lawmakers. In fact jailing those detained by ICE at our own Jerome Combs detention center is a choice the Sheriff makes to put dollars into county coffers.

Sheriff Downey states that he and Kankakee County Board Chairman Wheeler have offered to help activists change immigration laws but “not once have we gotten a call back saying they want to work together”. As recently as this April 27 and as documented in the Daily Journal Connect Kankakee and other groups hosted an immigration symposium in Kankakee attended by both of these elected officials. Sheriff Downey’s sincerity in outreach to activists must be questioned when he uses a public forum to deny this productive dialog.

Connect Kankakee continues to urge residents who share our concerns to make your voices heard at the national as well as local level. Kankakee has become known as the place where ICE operates, and this will negatively affect everything from the fast approaching census participation to attracting people who are hired at the many new area jobs to actually relocate to our community. Together we can build a more welcoming Kankakee County.

Daily Journal article on this story: “Sheriff responds to immigration critics”

How will the 2020 Census impact Kankakee?

Come learn how the census impacts our community and what we can all do to make it work for us.

Jay Young, Illinois Director of the national organization Common Cause, will be the main presenter.  Mr. Young works in Illinois to facilitate state funding to help local communities do outreach related to the census. He will address what is at stake for the state in terms of representation and the data suggesting Kankakee is at risk for being undercounted.

Meeting details
Saturday, June 29th at 10am
St. John United Church of Christ
1045 W River St, Kankakee, IL

Rally to End Ice Expansion

ONE LESS: Who Will Fill These Shoes?

Rally to End ICE Expansion

One Less: Who Will Fill These Shoes?
When: Saturday, September 1st, 1 PM
Where: Kankakee County Courthouse
450 E. Court St. Kankakee, IL

What is this about? Kankakee County’s Jerome Combs Detention Center houses on average 150 ICE detainees per day. Now the Sheriff wants to expand 32,000 additional square feet AND improve the Kankakee airport to expedite deportations, making Kankakee one of the largest ICE detention centers in the state.

LEARN WHAT’S GOING ON … This rally will inform the community and hold county officials accountable. Immigrants without proper documentation, ICE detainees, who have otherwise demonstrated respect for the law and contributed to their community should not be held in prison indefinitely, and Kankakee County should not build financial solvency on the backs of those suffering from today’s aggressive ICE tactics.

Visit our Facebook Event page here.


Renting Our Jail: Who is ICE detaining in Kankakee County?

12 Noon to 2 PM – Saturday 28 April 2018

Feed Arts & Cultural Center
259 S Schuyler Avenue, Downtown Kankakee


Have you ever wondered what goes on at the Jerome Combs Detention Center? It’s not simply a place to keep those arrested in Kankakee County behind bars. This facility offers beds to other governmental organizations for a price. Among those organizations is ICE, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm.

According to the Detention Watch Network (DWN) website, ICE’s track record of abuse is long-standing, well documented and overwhelming. Under an explicitly anti-immigrant and racist federal administration, ICE has been emboldened to be less transparent, less unaccountable and to act with increased impunity. This is an agency that actively hides and falsifies information and retaliates against those who speak out.

On April 28th, Connect Kankakee and DWN will hold ICE accountable for its culture of secrecy and systemic abuse, by presenting the true stories of people who are being detained by the agency at the Jerome Combs center. We’ll also be discussing the economic and moral issues surrounding Kankakee County’s participation in ICE activities by providing detention service to the agency.

Come join us for this informative and interactive session on April 28th.

Connect Responds

Liberty Ashamed

Alan Webber’s March 20th rant against all things immigration is riddled with inaccuracies. Connect addresses just one that illustrates a common tactic by those who seem consumed by hate. Our reply, which was submitted to Voice of the People, is copied below. Alan Webber’s commentary can be read here:

Connect responds to Daily Journal Newspaper Commentary

When the Daily Journal publishes commentary by its regular contributors on the opinion page, readers should be able to expect a certain level of factual accuracy. Quotes used from extremist groups often fall far short of this ideal.

Take for example the Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR). Alan Webber sourced information from this group in his commentary on Tuesday March 20. Despite the clever acronym, in 2007, the Souther Poverty Law Center branded FAIR a hate group, stating that:

“The founder, chief ideologue and long-time funder of FAIR, John Tanton, is a racist. Key staff members have ties to white supremacist groups, some are members, and some have spoken at hate group functions. FAIR has accepted more than $1 million from a racist foundation devoted to studies of race and IQ, and to eugenics — the pseudo-science of breeding a better human race that was utterly discredited by the Nazi euthanasia program. It spreads racist conspiracy theories.”

Alan Webber’s anti-immigration tirade used numbers concocted by FAIR to support claims of the high cost to taxpayers of undocumented immigrants. An overview by of the actual study completed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on this complex subject titled “The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration” offers a far different perspective:

“Estimates of the fiscal impacts of immigrants are complex and depend on the time horizon chosen for the analysis. Over the long horizon such estimates, under the most likely scenarios, generally find that immigrants are not a significant fiscal drain. The evidence does not suggest that current immigrant flows cost native-born taxpayers money over the long-run nor does it provide support for the notion that lowering immigration quotas or stepping up enforcement of existing immigration laws would generate savings to existing taxpayers. We do see, however, that there is a disconnect in the level of government that bears the greatest costs of immigration (state and local governments) versus the level which reaps the greatest tax rewards (federal). Overall, immigrants contribute substantially to paying for public expenditures, including sharing in the burden of paying back public debt.”

A 2007 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office examined 29 reports on state and local costs published over 15 years in an attempt to answer this question. CBO concluded that most of the estimates determined that illegal immigrants impose a net cost to state and local governments but “that impact is most likely modest.” CBO said “no agreement exists as to the size of, or even the best way of measuring, that cost on a national level.”

And finally, the conservative National Review published an article discussing a study by the National Academy of Sciences titled “ The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration”. In “What Does the National Academies’ Immigration Report Really Say?” it concludes “If we then take the report’s estimates of the surplus and the fiscal burden at face value, it is self-evident that the impact of immigration on the aggregate wealth of natives is, at best, a wash.”

Opinions based on information sourced from recognized hate groups have no place in a mainstream newspaper. Rhetoric based on sources led by racist extremists confuses the issue and does not serve the readers best interest. As the immigration debate continues, it’s important for residents to seek out trustworthy sources of information and balance prejudiced perspectives with one’s own review of the facts.

March 2018 Meeting

Join us this Thursday night!

Thursday evening 7:30 to 9:00 Connect members will gather for their monthly ‘First Thursday’ meeting at Feed in downtown Kankakee: 259 S Schuyler Ave, Kankakee, Illinois 60901.

Scene from Women's March Kankakee

As the above image of the Woman’s March in Kankakee illustrates- an initiative organized by Connect members- we are establishing a collective voice that resonates with those in the community that share our vision. What are your ideas and concerns?

This month’s agenda items include:
-Welcome new faces
-Women’s March feedback/plan for future: re-brand?
-Brief of county board meeting visit and meeting with sheriff
-Newsletter Committee formation: update?
-Billboard Project: introduction and feedback
-Input from community members
-Suggestions for next month’s Agenda

Connect members welcome input from all residents of the greater Kankakee area who seek ways to take action locally to benefit community members of all backgrounds. Stop by and bring a friend!

Harvest of Empire

Skyline with Statue of Liberty

Tuesday, September 26 at 7:30 PM

At a time of heated and divisive debate over immigration, Harvest of Empire reveals the direct connection between the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and the immigration crisis we face today.

Come join us at Feed Arts & Cultural Center, 259 S. Schuyler in Downtown Kankakee for a screening of this informative film. A discussion led by Patricia Santoro-Marin follows the screening.

This event is free and open to the public.