Trustees of a small village near Chicago are moving closer to allowing a private immigration detention center to be built in the area, despite pushback from activists and communities.
Dwight trustees last week voted to annex and rezone 88 acres (36 hectares) where Virginia-based Immigration Centers of America could build a detention center. The company must now secure a contract with the federal government by September 2020.
Village Board President Jared Anderson says the project could help stimulate the region’s economy by creating about 300 jobs. Dwight is about 80 miles southwest of downtown Chicago.
[Jared Anderson, the Dwight village board president] said pushback against the project has largely come from outside of Dwight. He estimates that he received about 100 emails about the project, but only five to seven of them were from Dwight residents. […]
Sonny Garcia, of Bloomington, Ill., who organized actions against the proposal, said area activists only learned about the plan in February from a local newspaper story. He said some Dwight residents told organizers they felt intimidated to voice their opinion in public.
About 300 people attended the [Dwight village board] meeting, which was moved to Dwight High School to accommodate the crowd. The audience included several opponents who gathered at the Amtrak station and marched to the high school.
While village President Jared Anderson previously spoke of economic benefits for the village, opponents spoke at the meeting against federal immigration policy and the role such a facility would play in it.
After the vote, opponents of the project shouted down the board, causing Anderson to abruptly call an end to the meeting.
They shouted obscenities at the board and several even approached board members. They were rebuffed by the increased police presence at the meeting.
* Press release…
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, advanced legislation to ban for-profit prisons today out of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, in an effort to block private immigration centers that have recently been approved in Illinois.
“We recently saw a resurgence of municipalities and local governments attempting to approve new for-profit and privately operated detention centers that would target immigrants,” Cassidy said. “Detention centers only confine those detained and cause more suffering to people who are going through one of the difficult times they will face in their life. The holding of a person, whether for a crime or for their immigration status, in a facility that will earn money for holding them is financially and morally irresponsible. For-profit detention centers focus on exactly the opposite of what we should be doing in our state, which is putting profits over the well- being, care, and basic rights of decency of people.”
Cassidy’s House Bill 2040 would prohibit the state or any unit of local government from operating private detention facilities, like those recently proposed to hold detained immigrants. Private, for-profit immigration centers have been attempted in four locations in Illinois. The legislation would also prohibit the entering of contracts, receiving payment or providing payment to a facility owned, managed or operated by a private company or person.
“Stopping these kinds of centers is about ensuring common dignity and humanity to people,” said state Rep. Elizabeth ‘Lisa’ Hernandez, D-Cicero. “There is no evidence that these types of facilities save any money, and often provide no oversight or specialized care to those held there. This bill is a major step in the right direction when it comes to protecting immigrants and providing the proper care that every person deserves.”
The legislation represents initiatives of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. It passed out of the House Labor and Commerce Committee Wednesday and awaits approval from the House as a whole.