Hello, ProPublicans in Illinois and elsewhere,
This week, we published an update to our investigative reporting on immigrant children and teens who are detained in a secretive network of shelters throughout the Chicago area. I encourage you to read the story in full. In the meantime, here are five things you need to know:
1. Officials at Heartland Human Care Services say children are arriving to their facilities increasingly traumatized and sick after spending a week or longer in dirty and overcrowded U.S. Border Patrol facilities. Some are contagious with tuberculosis, chicken pox, strep throat or fever and are being quarantined and treated. Heartland officials said the rise in contagious diseases they are seeing in children is unlike anything they’ve seen before. Children have described to staff “horrible and inhumane conditions” at border facilities.
2. Two nonprofits have contracts with the federal government to shelter immigrant children in Illinois: Heartland and Maryville Academy. Heartland, the larger of the two, houses nearly 400 children, including 15 separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border. The organization operates five shelters: two in Rogers Park, and one each in the Beverly, Englewood and Bronzeville neighborhoods. Maryville operates three shelters in suburban Des Plaines and this month plans to open one in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.
3. There’s been a wave of protests in Chicago sparked by the Trump administration’s immigration policy, and at least one group is calling for the release of children and teenagers from Heartland facilities. Heartland has tried to distance itself from the administration’s policies and last month published a fact sheet about its shelters.
4. Our previous reporting on Heartland revealed allegations of abuse, threats and inappropriate sexual relationships inside the shelters. We learned that children and teenagers inside had contemplated suicide and escape and that at least 10 children had run away in recent years. More than a dozen current and former Heartland employees told our reporters last year that they felt overworked in emotionally draining jobs. In March 2019, Heartland announced plans to close four of its shelters, hire more staff and increase training within the remaining five shelters it operates.
5. You can help us get more information about what goes on inside Heartland and Maryville facilities. We are looking to hear from current or former employees, family members and sponsors of children detained there, as well as those who have been detained themselves. If any of these apply to you, reach out to us via the information below. If not, please save this image below and share within your own networks.
Thanks. More next week …
Engagement reporter, ProPublica Illinois
P.S. Thanks to those who came out to our event in Rockford to talk about video gambling. More on that soon.