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Our View: Detention center makes sense for Joliet

Updated: December 19, 2012 1:28PM



After decades of false starts and blind alleys, some resolution of national immigration reform might be on the horizon. We’re for that, but until it occurs, the nation will continue to detain illegal immigrants and send them back to their country of origin. For the Chicago area, that usually means Mexico.

Until there’s a national policy change regarding immigration, all politics still are local, which is why Crete residents and outside protesters this summer shot down building a detention center for deportees and why a similar project has surfaced for Joliet.

The Crete center was a good idea but failed because of village leaders’ secrecy and a small town’s fear of the unknown. Locating the detention center in Joliet makes more sense.

Crete citizens objected, in part, because they didn’t want to see their town become a “prison village,” but the same concern doesn’t apply in Joliet, which had a state prison for 144 years until 2002. City officials lamented the closing of the Joliet Correctional Center and its good-paying jobs. The city also has had a state youth prison since 1959 that’s scheduled for closing as part of the state’s budget cutbacks.

Thus, a minimum-security center for people awaiting deportation, none of whom would be dangerous criminals, should not cause the same ripples as in Crete. Joliet officials seem receptive, eyeing the construction and permanent jobs and the property tax revenue it would produce from being privately operated.

The Joliet plan is in the courting stage, as city and federal immigration officials and representatives of the company involved sound each other out. We urge city officials to be open about the process, mindful of how that was not the case in Crete.

The main issue may be Correction Corporation of America’s history of running such centers and prisons. Immigrant activists contend that it scrimps on services, especially health care, in pursuing a profit. There’s also that segment of immigration activists that opposes all deportation, especially to Mexico.

Immigration issues aside, the center meets an important need and will create good jobs that Joliet wants and needs. Building the center there just makes sense.



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