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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

Three Illinois ICE Detention Centers Could Close Under New Bills

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Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus
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Rep. Lisa Hernandez and Sen. Omar Aquino After the Passage of The Illinois Way Forward Act

A new set of bills from the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus could mean the days are numbered for the state’s three immigration detention centers. 

 

The Illinois Way Forward Act would end any existing or future agreements between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local governments to, “house or detain individuals for federal civil immigration violations.” 

 

Celeste Flores from the Mano a Mano Family Resource Center says this a positive step.  

 

“I think as a state, we should not be profiting of the inhumane practices of the immigration detention centers,” said Flores. “And that's going to stop with Illinois Way Forward.”

 

The new legislation builds off of the 2017 TRUST Act, which made it so that local police could not stop, search or arrest individuals based solely on their immigration status. 

 

The Illinois Way Forward Act would close three detention facilities in McHenry, Pulaski and Kankakee counties beginning January 1, 2022. The bill now awaits a signature from Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker. 

 

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.