Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If not Crete, will Immigration search for willing town to host detention center?

Activists with concerns about immigration  policy and the way in which our government handles such cases are pleased that officials in a suburb at the edge of the Chicago area has said it doesn’t want to be the site of a detention center.

Yet that really doesn’t matter much.

BECAUSE I HAVE no doubt that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, along with the Nashville-based Corrections Corp. of America, will merely find another municipality – one whose officials will be so eager to have a significant construction project that they’ll overlook the ethical qualms inherent in the project.

The plan, insofar as federal Immigration officials are concerned, was always about having one of five detention centers located somewhere, anywhere, within the Chicago area.

I doubt that Corrections Corp. really cares which suburban community winds up getting their name put on the facility as part of its home address.

The concept of Crete, a Will County town that has a racetrack for horses, was really about the fact that there was lots of open land surrounding the community.

LAND COULD HAVE been purchased for a detention center site without having to worry about tearing something down. They would have encountered some farmers who would have decried the loss of rural life and potential to grow crops.

But I’m sure they would have been willing to put up with that rhetoric in order to get a large plot of land on the cheap in order to build the facility, which had been designed to hold 750 beds for people who have immigration violation cases pending in the system.

Now, they’ll be looking at other municipalities – many of which are feeling a sense of desperation in coping with today’s economic struggles.

Which means I’m sure that somewhere, out there, is another suburban community that will be willing to say “yes” where Crete municipal officials this week officially said “no.”

SO ANYBODY WHO thinks this issue is resolved is really missing the point!

All of the factors that were in play before are still in play now. Just the name of the community will change. The names of the people who will argue they don’t want a detention center built near their homes will change.

The immigration activists who view such privately-run detention centers as an abhorrent concept will continue to be appalled at the idea. They will just no longer be slandering the reputation of Crete when they argue against the issue.

Because the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency still views there to be a need to have one of these facilities in the Chicago area, which does have a large number of cases pending and a demand for a place to put people until the cases are resolved.

PERSONALLY, I HAVE my own objection to these facilities, and it has nothing to do with location (locals will always object).

Just as I wouldn’t trust private companies to be involved in the operation of correctional centers (a.k.a., prisons) for people convicted of state or federal crimes, I don’t get into the idea of private companies being involved in the immigration business.

Although I do find it encouraging that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials realize that their current way of coping with pending cases (paying local sheriffs to house them in their county jails) is ridiculously flawed, there has to be a better solution.

Even if that means having Immigration officials getting into the incarceration business. Although a better alternative would involve having Immigration find ways to more efficiently handle their cases so that people wouldn’t be stuck in the system for so long that they would need to be detained at all.

THEN, THERE’S THE real solution – although it seems to be the one that Republican ideologues are determined to fight to the death, and one that President Barack Obama hasn’t been willing to push for.

That is real reform of the immigration system, which would eliminate the bureaucratic idiosyncrasies that create immigration violators out of people who, by and large, are trying to live their lives in peace and quiet and who truly aren’t criminals to begin with.


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