Large crowd objects to detention center in Crete
BY Matthew Bruce Correspondent January 23, 2012 9:48PM
Crete residents look over information before a board meeting discussing the possible building of an immigrant detention center in the village during a meeting at the village hall in Crete, IL on Monday January 23, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2012 8:17AM
An overflow crowd came out Monday night in Crete to strongly oppose a planned detention center for illegal immigrants in the village.
The vocal opponents jammed the village board meeting room and spilled out into the cold night as Mayor Michael Einhorn addressed their concerns during an hour-long session.
Under the plan, Crete would contract with a private company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), to build and operate the medium-security center on 70 acres at the end of Hartman Drive, about a mile south of Burville Road. The undeveloped site is zoned for light-industrial use.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has indicated the center would have about 600 beds for people awaiting deportation, but opponents contend that the number would be closer to 750.
“I cannot take a proposal like this and cast it off out of hand,” Einhorn told the crowd. “We have to, as a board, look at all these kinds of proposals to see if there’s any merit to them. If we determine there’s no merit to it, it’ll go away. And if we determine there is merit, then we’ll pursue it to the extent that we need to. Because part of our responsibility is to provide a stream of revenue for this village to operate on.”
Einhorn said the privately owned center would produce tax revenue for the village and other taxing districts. He said it would pay property tax, and those held there could be counted as Crete residents — bringing the village $120 in state tax reimbursements per person, or $90,000 a year.
He estimated that Crete-Monee School District 201U could get about $1 million per year from the detention center. In addition, the center would provide construction and permanent jobs, the mayor said.
But most residents who spoke Monday night expressed dismay over the proposal, while others complained about village and ICE representatives being overly secretive about it to try to avoid public controversy.
“I hope that you will reject this,” said Marimonica Murray, who lives a block from the proposed site. “... This is a bad idea all around for multiple reasons.”
Until recently, few details had been released because the village and ICE claimed the plan was still in the discussion stage, with nothing finalized. Under growing criticism in the past couple of weeks, the village has posted information on the plan on its website.
Others Monday night noted that possible changes in federal immigration law might render the proposed center obsolete.
“And if we build it, it could be a white elephant,” resident John Seblicki told the mayor and trustees. “I just want you to be aware, and I want everybody to be thinking about that.”
Contributing: Phil Kadner