The Executive Committee of the Illinois House of Representatives took another step toward approving a bill that would block construction of a privately run immigration detention center 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Chicago.

The panel supported SB 1064 by a vote of 7-4, a key step toward bringing the measure to the House floor.

The bill already passed the Senate.

SB 1064 would prohibit the state, counties and municipalities of Illinois from hiring private firms to administer detention centers.

The bill would also complement legislation that has been on the books for 20 years in Illinois that establishes that managing the imprisonment of people for crimes is a function that can only be carried out by the government.

The future law would extend that policy to civil detention centers, as the centers are called that are used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house undocumented immigrants while they await deportation.

The law is aimed at a contract that is being negotiated between the Corrections Corporation of America and the municipality of Crete, in Will County, to build and manage a center to house 788 ICE detainees.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights on Wednesday applauded the vote of the Executive Committee and said that it would send "a clear message to CCA" and other private companies that administer detention facilities.

"These companies are not welcome in Illinois," said ICIRR in a communique

According to ICIRR, CCA is the "nation's largest and most notorious private prison operator" and has a "long record" of neglect, abuse and mistreatment of detainees.

It says that at least 24 undocumented immigrants died due to lack of medical care in facilities administered by CCA, which last year settled out of court a lawsuit alleging that a prison in Idaho had a "gladiator school" that used violence and intimidation to control the inmates.

The ICIRR says that the commission's vote was "a clear victory" for Crete and the residents of Illinois, but the bill still needs the approval of the lower house.

The ICIRR, which says that the Crete detention center is one of several that ICE plans to build around the country, urged Illinois lawmakers to approve SB 1064 and to come out publicly against the privatization of immigration detention centers.

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