JOLIET, Ill. — The Corrections Corporation of American (CCA) announced Monday that it will no longer consider Joliet, Ill. as a potential host city for a new immigrant detention center. The Immigration and Enforcement Customs, which would contract CCA to operate the detention center, will continue its search for a Chicago-area site.
The decision comes at a time in which immigration reform is being debated upon and the local lawmakers expressed heavy opposition.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn voiced his disapproval to the Department of Homeland Security in a letter that stressed his belief that immigration detention facilities create a divide between the American people and immigrants.
"It is time to embrace our nation’s immigrants, not build prisons to incarcerate them," Quinn said.
Addressed to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, the letter refers to the plan to open a federal immigrant detention center under the operation of Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a private company based in Nashville, Tenn.
The plan has acquired heavy protest from the community of Joliet, which garnered a 5,000-signature petition against the detention center, as well as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and seven U.S. House representatives.
The Joliet City Council called for a public meeting with the CCA to gain more detail into the plan and allow members of the public to direct questions to the company. Jim McFarland, Joliet city councilman, has been vocal about his opposition to hosting a privately run prison in his community.
“First, from the standpoint of economic development, the project promises little,” McFarland said. “If our community is to grow and advance the interests of individual prosperity, we will need more than temporary, low paying jobs to do so.”
Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante issued a statement that said that there could be major economical benefits for the community if the detention center is built. Approximately 200 jobs would be created and $60 million would be provided by the construction of an immigrant detention center.
"As city leaders, we must explore the positives and negatives of any project presented to us and make a decision to proceed or not based on fact not innuendo," he said. "If at any time CCA’s project is deemed unsuitable for Joliet, it will not be pursued."
McFarland said he wants to see the community of Joliet “move beyond the era of prisons” and highlight the city’s vibrant atmosphere to enhance investment potential. The immigrant detention center, he said, would not benefit the community in the terms of attracting businesses.
McFarland also had concerns with the private prison company’s often negative reputation or human rights abuses and cutting costs on security.
The city councilmen issued a statement shortly after the decision to abandon any potential CCA plans in Joliet became public.
"CCA apparently responded to the feedback given by the residents of Joliet, recognizing that a for-profit prison is not a good fit for our community," McFarland said. "As a city, we can now start to focus on issues that directly affect the public good, such as the need to create sustainable high-paying jobs and confront crime in our neighborhoods."