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Council member wants public airing of detention center plans

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Updated: June 18, 2013 8:15AM



The Joliet City Council could vote next week on whether to lay out for the public what plans already exist for building an immigrant detention center in town.

The item may be on the council agenda, new Councilman Jim McFarland, an opponent of the project, announced during a press conference Thursday in which two county board memers added their voices to the opposition.

There is no formal proposal to build an immigrant detention center in Joliet. But Joliet has partnered with Corrections Corp. of America to pitch the city as a possible location for the facility that the federal government would like to see built in the Chicago region.

McFarland wants CCA to make a presentation on the project to the council, and the council would vote next week on whether they agree.

“This will give us direction to have another meeting to give an up or down vote on whether to proceed with a for-profit prison for the city of Joliet,” McFarland said at the press conference.

The council meets Monday and Tuesday at city hall. McFarland said he would like the detention issue to be discussed Monday during a workshop session and voted on during the Tuesday meeting.

Also Thursday, Mayor Thomas Giarrante put out a statement, saying that the detention center is worth exploring because it has the potential of generating hundreds of construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs.

“... As city leaders, we must explore the positives and negatives of any project presented to us and make a decision based on fact — not innuendo,” Giarrante said in the statement.

The detention center would be built for the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which contracts with private companies to build and operate holding areas for immigrants facing deportation for criminal offenses and immigration violations.

A project proposed in Crete last year was turned down after opposition mounted. ICE has not yet sought formal proposals for the Chicago regional project, and Joliet is not the only community that has shown interest.

But opposition has been mounting in Joliet since the city’s interest in the project became known last year.

Thursday’s news conference was held in front of the Will County Building and brought out two county board members to speak against the detention center.

“Placing this type of facility in the hands of private corporations is fraught with difficulties,” said county board Member Reed Bible, D-Plainfield.

Bible noted that Illinois does not allow privately run prisons and said the same ban should be extended to detention centers.

County Board member Jacqueline Traymere, D-Bolingbrook, said she had joined in the opposition to a detention center in Crete and said she, too, objected to a privately run detention center.

No county board members from Joliet spoke at the press conference. An announcement of the event said Board Speaker Herbert Brooks, D-Joliet, would be there, but he did not attend.

Concerned Citizens of Joliet, which organized the press conference, did present letters from six congressional representatives from Illinois, including Bill Foster, Tammy Duckworth and Luis Gutierrez, calling on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to drop the plan for a privately run detention center in Illinois.



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