Kadner: Detention center vote hypocrisy in action
Phil Kadner email@example.com | (708) 633-6787 May 31, 2012 10:32PM
Updated: July 6, 2012 9:55AM
Illinois House members apparently believe a private company is capable of running a detention camp for illegal immigrants but can’t be trusted to operate prisons for criminals.
A bill that would have blocked a privately built and operated detention center in Crete, which previously passed the Senate, failed to get enough votes Thursday in the House.
The bill was placed on postponed consideration before the vote was recorded, a parliamentary maneuver that allows the sponsor to call it again if he can persuade enough lawmakers to switch sides.
State Rep. Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights) said he voted for the moratorium after initially saying he would defer to the wishes of the Crete Village Board. DeLuca told me he was frustrated when the board refused his written request to take a vote on the project.
After receiving an email from a Crete trustee indicating opposition to the detention center, “I made the decision to go directly to the residents and launched an aggressive outreach effort,” DeLuca said.
That outreach revealed overwhelming opposition to the detention center among residents, DeLuca said, and he cast his vote accordingly.
Since I criticized DeLuca previously for deferring to the village board, it’s only fair now to praise his effort to find out what his constituents wanted.
Nevertheless, the bill failed to pass, and that’s puzzling because the Legislature years ago approved a moratorium on privately run prisons and jails in Illinois, saying that incarcerating citizens requires the exercise of “coercive police powers over individuals and is thus distinguishable from privatization in other areas of government.”
Well, that statement is either true or it isn’t. If private companies can run detention centers for illegal immigrants, they should be able to do the same for criminals.
The failure of the Legislature to act in a consistent manner suggests that something is at play here that isn’t evident in the public debate.
The setback on Thursday was especially surprising in light of a recent riot at a private prison in Mississippi owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the same company that hopes to build the detention center in Crete. A Mississippi congressman has called for a federal investigation of CCA’s operation of that prison.
The Crete center would house more than 750 immigrants accused of being here illegally and would be jointly run by the village and CCA under a contract awarded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Although ICE officials have given the Crete detention plan preliminary approval, they haven’t given it a final OK.
Anti-immigration activists from Chicago have joined forces with Crete residents to oppose the detention center. The proposed law was supported by the Legislature’s Hispanic Caucus but opposed by organized labor. John Scheidt, president of the Will and Grundy Counties Building Trades Council, said the detention center would create jobs for union workers.
Some legislators said they opposed a moratorium on private detention centers because they’re safer places to house potential immigration violators than Cook County Jail. Most people accused of being illegal immigrants in the Chicago area are housed in the McHenry County Jail, although some are also temporarily placed in Cook County Jail.
Cook County officials have made it clear they don’t want to deal with the political fallout of detaining people accused of violating immigration laws.
State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro), the fellow whose rant against the undemocratic process of the Legislature went viral this week, actually defended the privatization of detention facilities.
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-2nd), whose new congressional district includes Crete, is an outspoken opponent of the detention center.
And although Jackson is one of the most liberal congressmen in Washington, conservative Republican congressmen have also opposed the construction of privately operated, country club-like detention centers for illegal immigrants.
Crete Mayor Michael Einhorn has defended the detention center, saying it would provide additional tax revenues and jobs for his village.
The only thing that’s clear here is the hypocrisy of the Illinois Legislature.
The state’s current moratorium on private prisons and jails is forcefully expressed and makes sense to me.
But the people who adopted the law apparently don’t believe a word of it.