Monday, May 14, 2018

Immigration detention center project won’t die; just going further south

It seems the powers that be who want to build a jail-like facility for people awaiting hearings on immigration violations (and possible deportation from the United States) are not about to give up.
Will these types of activists express their objections ...
Their plans to build such a facility somewhere in the Chicago metropolitan area to accommodate immigration violators in the Midwestern U.S. are cropping up again.

ONLY NOW, THEY’VE moved not only across the state line to Indiana, but south to Newton County – a place so far south that I’m sure the locals who live there would seriously resent any claim that they’re part of the Chicago area (Wikipedia says they are).

It’s a fairly isolated place with lots of open space, which means it might be possible to build the desired facility in a place where it would have little interaction with the real world – just like more conventional prison facilities.

Perhaps this is what the project’s backers feel is necessary to get away from the objections that have constantly arisen all the other opportunities that this has come up for discussion.

Personally, I remember back when the powers-that-be wanted to build such a facility just outside of Joliet. When locals objected, talks shifted toward building it just south of Crete (which is roughly the southernmost suburb of Chicago) not far from the now-defunct Balmoral Racecourse.

ALL THE HOSTILITY toward the project caused Crete officials to back away, which caused the project’s supporters to shift over the state line into Indiana and there was some consideration to building it in Gary not far from the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Concerns about the airport’s flight patterns being a potential security risk for a detention facility, along with the outspoken immigration activists who have followed this project everywhere it has gone, caused Gary municipal officials to give up their support for the idea.
... so far distant from Chicago?

Now, it seems the supporters of a detention center have found a place about 65 miles away from Chicago (about as far south as Kankakee) where they hope there will be a lack of opposition to the idea of locking up people who may only be caught up in the immigration bureaucracy because they got pulled over for a traffic violation – and some eager cop was willing to notify immigration to “take ‘em away.”

As the talks proceed toward whether to build such a facility in Newton County -- a place whose total population (just under 14,000) is less than most suburbs. I’ll be curious to see how many of the activist-types will continue to follow this project.

BECAUSE SOME OF the objectors are people with an interest in our nation’s immigration policy, and they have followed it from municipality to municipality.

From Joliet to Crete to Gary, Ind., will they now show up in Kentland (the county seat) to let their objections be known. Or will they figure they’ve pushed this proposed facility far out enough into the “middle of nowhere” that they can live with its existence “somewhere else.”

I’ve heard the arguments on all sides, with the objectors hating the idea of detaining people while the immigration violations are pending. While supporters either aren’t bothered with their incarceration, or they’ll argue that these facilities aren’t really prisons.

Some may even argue that the current status of these violators would improve if they weren’t held in traditional jail conditions (many are sent to the McHenry County Jail in Woodstock, which has a contract with the federal government to detain such people).

PERSONALLY, I’M MOST concerned with the fact that these detention facilities are run by private companies, rather than by a government entity like the federal Bureau of Prisons. Meaning many of the regulations meant to protect the rights of inmates in the federal system do not apply. This particular facility would be built by GEO Group of Boca Raton, Fla.

I don’t doubt that in this Age of Trump that we’re now in, there are some who aren’t bothered by that thought. But we should be. Our “rights” are only as safe as the most vulnerable in our society.

And it may well be that among the most vulnerable are those people whose immigration status is unclear – particularly since there are those who enjoy being able to harass such individuals to make up for the short-comings in their own lives.

So has this project moved far enough away from Chicago that the locals will be willing to tell its objections to “stuff it!” or will the objectors (a combination of religious folks and Latino activists) continue to push to where it eventually becomes an Indianapolis issue, rather than Chicago?


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