The Crete Village Board unanimously voted Monday night not to go forward with a planned federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in their village boundaries – meaning ICE will likely approach another small town near Chicago.
Construction of the facility to house potential undocumented immigrants was always contingent on approval from the village board, ICE and also the Corrections Corporation of America, a for-profit operator of prisons and detention facilities based in Nashville that was to run the center.
Prior to Monday night's vote, the board never indicated their support or opposition, but had touted the potential economic benefits. However, the board turned down the center after a financial plan could not be hashed out with ICE and CCA.
“I do not think anybody anticipated this happening the way it did,” says Fred Tsao, policy director for the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), a group that has advocated against the facility.
ICE pitched the center in Crete as beneficial to immigrants apprehended in Chicago, saying the would be “closer to their place of apprehension and immigration proceedings,” according to ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer. Crete is 30 miles south of downtown Chicago.
Neudauer said that ICE has other options to explore near Chicago.
“The Village of Crete was tentatively selected from a number of submissions sent to ICE,” Neudauer said. “ICE will review the proposals received from other local governments as part of its next step.”
CCA spokesman Steve Owen said his company “will continue to work closely with our partners at ICE to meet their needs in the region.”
The hunt for a new site arguably reveals the importance of state legislation that would have placed a moratorium on for-profit detention centers in Illinois. The legislation had the support of Gov. Pat Quinn, and passed the Illinois Senate but was voted down in the Illinois House two weeks ago.
Had it passed, ICE would now have to either look outside Illinois or drop CCA.
There is no plan as of now to revive the bill, according to Tsao. Calls to State Sen. Antonio Munoz (D-Chicago), the original bill sponsor, were not returned.
Tsao argues that the Village Board vote set “a strong precedent” that will make ICE and CCA cautious about approaching other towns.
ICE might be inclined to look in a congressional district outside the 2nd District represented by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.. Legislative redistricting last year placed Crete in the 2nd District, and gave them a U.S. House member who fought against the detention center.
Jackson applauded the Village Board vote. “It was clear to me, and it became increasingly clear to everybody that a detention center and Crete were not a good fit,” Jackson said in a statement.