Immigration activists march to proposed detention center

March 31, 2012 8:24:00 AM PDT
Immigration activists in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood kicked off a three-day march Friday to a proposed detention center in Crete.

The center would temporarily hold those accused of being in the U.S. country illegally before they are sent back to their home country. If approved, the 788-bed facility would take in detainees from Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Kentucky. It is slated to be built in south suburban Crete.

Friday's three-day march kicked off Friday afternoon from the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. It will end with a rally on Sunday at the proposed construction site.

The marchers left Little Village with about 30 people, but they expect to pick up more folks along the way during their march. The protest comes as a bill blocking a private company from owning a detention facility is moving through the Illinois state legislature.

Members of Moratorium on Deportations Campaign and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church are walking to raise awareness and ultimately to stop a proposed private detention facility for those accused of immigration violations.

"We think if this is just easy to do to the immigrant population, down the road it's going to be easy to do to other people as well," said Rozalinda Borcila of the Moratorium on Deportations campaign.

Jose Herrera is helping organize the march. The college student and father has been in Chicago since he was 8. He is among those fighting deportation.

"I hope the system gets fixed, because it's an unjust system," said Herrera. "It's a system that separates family. It's an outdated system."

The Village of Crete is considering the construction of the facility on what is now farmland. The detention center would house detainees awaiting deportation and be a venue for deportation hearings.

The village administrator says nothing has been decided, but the private facility would pay local taxes and create jobs.

Carl Rusnok, director of communications for the Central Region U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, issued a statement, saying in part:

"Consolidating detention space and reducing the number of facilities used to house detainees within the greater Chicago area is a key piece of ICE's detention reform effort. ICE seeks to house detainees, whenever possible, within the geographical area of their arrest."

Some living near the proposed site in Crete says they do not see any benefits for themselves.

"There are so many other things that could move in," said Crete resident Dorothy Lewis. "Why not use the empty prisons that are already built?"

"The neighborhood here is pretty much country setting...and all of a sudden you've got a prison sitting right across the street from you," said Kim Beenster.

Corrections Corporation of America is the company that brought the proposal to Crete. A CCA spokesperson said Friday they are still waiting to hear back from the village.

If the village approves the facility, CCA would still need a formal agreement with ICE. So, for now, there is a lot still to be decided.