Crete, Illinois is a small town of about 8000 residents, with a patriotic feel and a sense of community. It is located close to the state’s farms and Chicago’s suburbs, but lately there is unrest in the village since authorities have announced plans to consider an area just beyond the community’s borders as a spot for an immigration detention facility. The facility would house 800 undocumented immigrants who were detained for deportation. The mayor Crete has stated that the facility would create jobs for the community, but some of the village’s residents are opposed to the idea.
Residents are working with immigrant rights advocates from Chicago to fight the possible facility. The groups have convinced state Democratic leaders to try putting a ban on Crete from working with private companies on the facility. State law currently bans municipalities and the state from using private contractors and companies to operate prisons. A new suggested ban would extend that ban to detention centers. The House is expected to vote on the suggestion soon.
Governor Pat Quinn has stated that he is not enthusiastic about the plan for the facility. Crete Village President Michael Einhorn has stated that the detention facilities would bring tax revenues and hundreds of jobs to the community, but with the resident response he is unsure whether the detention center will be built. Some reports have suggested that the facility would possibly create 250 jobs and approximately $1.2 million in tax revenue, which is significant for Crete, since the village is facing cuts to its local services.
Facilities such as the one proposed outside of Crete are needed in part because deportations are on the rise. During President Obama’s term, there have been a record number of 400 000 deportations. Immigration authorities have stated that detention centers are a better and more humane way to house detainees awaiting deportation. Such a facility recently opened in Texas, which features private phones and dorm-like rooms for about 608 detainees. There is also a 1500-bed detention facility planned for Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Jesse Jackson Jr. have expressed concerns about private contractors involved with the detainee facilities, saying that there are too few methods to check on the work of contractors and too little transparency in the system. Sen. Tony Munoz has also questioned why the government wants to bring in a private company. In addition, Munoz has pointed out that Corrections Corporation of America and groups like it have been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union for their profit methods. Steve Owen of the CCA has stated that the CCA has worked with the government for more than 30 years and has an excellent track record.