What is Heartland Alliance? What is Heartland Alliance doing?

Heartland Alliance is a large Chicago non-profit that detains immigrant children (for weeks to several years), who have family and sponsors in the United States, in return for tens of millions of dollars annually since 1995. They have dozens of other programs related to immigration, housing, economic opportunity, and health. Heartland Health and Human Services is the branch of the organization contracted with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to detain migrant children.

Where are the detention centers?

Heartland Alliance runs 5 detention centers in Bronzeville, Englewood, Rogers Park and Beverly. They previously ran a large detention center in Des Plains, which was shut down due to activist pressure.

Why are they called “shelters”?

We know they’re not shelters: Children cannot receive visits by or be signed out even temporarily by their own families  and if they turn 18 while detained, ICE takes them into custody; these are detention centers. 

Further, they are abusive detention centers. Heartland Alliance has been cited in IL Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) reports for forcing child labor, medicating behavioral issues without consent, sexual abuse, denying medical attention, and more. 

Last spring, over half of children detained in the Bronzeville detention center as well as several staff members contracted covid-19 -it’s not surprising due to their history of medical neglect and cramped living conditions. So why do they call themselves shelters? Simple; it’s to shield them from mainstream backlash and any legislation that might target private prisons.

What’s the alternative? Where will the kids go?

Heartland Alliance can send these children to their families NOW because nearly all of them have sponsors in the US. 

It’s been done before. When Heartland shut down its detention centers in Des Plaines, they stopped intake and reunited the majority of remaining children until those facilities were empty. Similarly, the non-profit-run Tornillo Detention Center demanded children be sent to their sponsors without risk of deportation and reunited 90% of the children with their families. We know we can’t rely on protesting federal policy or count on Biden to free the kids. The way to federal change is by fighting incarceration of all kinds at the local level. We are part of a national movement to create detention center-free zones because as we know, fewer beds means fewer detentions.

Why is Heartland Alliance doing this?

Since they started detaining children in 1995, their grants to run their detention centers have increased, as executive salaries remain high. In fact, Heartland has received $120 million in federal funding since 2020 solely to run these prisons—approximately 70% of their entire Human Care Services division’s annual revenue and over 25% of Heartland Alliance’s total revenue. Heartland Alliance detains children because it directly financially benefits the people at the top of the organization.

But isn’t this a sanctuary city?

The Illinois Way Forward Act (2021) made it illegal for state and local governments to enter contracts to detain people for immigration violations. This does not apply to Heartland’s contract, which is between a nonprofit and the federal government.
HB 2040 (2019) prohibits state and local agencies from entering into an agreement to detain people in a privately-owned or managed detention facility. It doesn’t apply to Heartland Alliance,because their contract is with the federal government (not a state or local government).

How can I get involved?

  • Join us at the next general meeting
    • The first Thursday of every month: tinyurl.com/FHKmeeting
  • Join our email list: tinyurl.com/freeheartlandkids
  • Reach out to us with any questions, to get involved, or to learn more: freeheartlandkids@gmail.com
  • Organize a protest or vigil outside a detention center. Let us know about it, we’d love to support if we can! 
  • Bring our introductory workshop to your class, religious group, bookclub, you and your friends, etc. or even just you!