Kadner: Crete detention hearing to include ICE officials
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 May 19, 2012 12:42AM
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:08PM
Crete residents for the first time will have a chance Monday to question federal immigration officials about plans to build a 750-bed detention center in their village.
U.S. Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd) and Luis Gutierrez (D-4th) are hosting a town hall meeting on the center from 6 to 8 p.m. at Crete-Monee Sixth Grade Center, 760 W. Exchange St.
The detention center would house illegal immigrants awaiting deportation and would be built and operated by a private company in partnership with Crete. Protesters from across the country have joined with Crete residents to try to stop the project, which Jackson and Gutierrez also oppose.
Mayor Michael Einhorn, who has emphasized that no plan has been finalized, has said that construction of a detention center would bring jobs and generate new tax revenue for Crete.
Corrections Corporation of America, the largest for-profit company in the prison-building business, selected the site in Crete and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has given preliminary approval to the plan. However, it’s still unclear if ICE will give the project a green light.
Republicans in Congress oppose the construction of “country club” settings for illegal immigrants, and the Obama administration is facing stiff opposition from Hispanics and others in the Democratic Party who oppose what has been the largest deportation effort in U.S. history.
ICE’s new detention facilities for illegal immigrants would not only be operated by private companies, they would feature amenities you don’t often see in correctional facilities, such as volleyball courts, fitness rooms and lounge areas with skylights and stuffed chairs.
The Crete center, designed to provide more humane treatment, would be non-traditional in appearance, with no barbed wire on the walls.
Crete residents have organized protest rallies and marches, signed petitions and appeared at village board meetings, demanding public input.
Village officials have been bombarded with questions at those meetings but have repeatedly said that ICE has not awarded a contract to build the center, and the village is awaiting a green light from the federal government.
Legislation has been approved by the Illinois Senate and is awaiting approval in the House that would prevent private companies from operating detention centers in Illinois.
Citizens have been demanding a public hearing on the proposed center so they could ask questions and get answers directly from government officials. ICE has been minimally responsive to inquiries from the news media about the project.
According to Jackson’s chief of staff, ICE officials at the Monday meeting will include Gary Mead, executive associate director who oversees ICE’s enforcement and removal operations, and Jonathan Porter.
Asked to confirm that ICE representatives would be at the meetings and to provide their titles, an ICE spokeswoman replied with this following vague email: “Representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations are participating in the May 21 town hall meeting in Crete at the invitation of Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.
“Community outreach is a priority for ICE. We are committed to building and maintaining constructive relations with community stakeholders in an effort to foster public awareness, understanding and support for the agency’s mission.
“By participating in the upcoming town hall meeting in Crete, it is ICE’s goal to enhance our understanding of community concerns related to the proposed detention facility. Regular communication between ICE and community stakeholders ensures that accurate information is relayed in a timely and transparent manner ...”
You’ve got to be kidding me.
Crete residents have been trying to get someone to answer their questions for months, and ICE has been as tight-mouthed as any government agency I’ve encountered.
It has scores of public information officers whose primary duty seems to be preventing the public from getting information. I never did get confirmation of the names and titles of the ICE representatives.
In my opinion, this entire controversy has blown up because ICE has not been transparent or open with the public about its plans.
Jackson has pressured ICE to remedy that situation, and Monday’s meeting is the result.
A true public hearing on the detention center is overdue. The opponents deserve credit for forcing their government to become publicly accountable.