Coalition denounces proposed ICE detention center in Elkhart

Opponents are stepping up efforts to stop a proposed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in northern Indiana ahead of a county rezoning decision.

The proposed detention center would have up to 1,200 beds for ICE detainees about 10 miles east of South Bend in Elkhart County. County commissioners said the facility would be managed by CoreCivic, a private prison company previously known as Corrections Corporation of America.

The company applied for rezoning of the farmland across from the county landfill and jail to build the $100 million facility. The Elkhart Plan Commission will consider CoreCivic’s rezoning request on Feb. 8.

Ahead of the decision, the Coalition Against the Elkhart County Immigration Detention Center hosted a news conference Tuesday at the Elkhart Public Library to denounce the detention center proposal. The group has about 35,000 members in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.

The coalition is also planning a letter-writing event and a rally before the rezoning recommendation.
Richard Aguirre, a coalition co-coordinator, has said that the center would promote the inhumane treatment of individuals living in the U.S. illegally.

Many in attendance at the news conference pointed to the county’s large Latino population.

“Of course we help contribute greatly to our communities’ economies. … But above all else, we deserve to not live in fear because we are human beings,” said Marbella Chavez, another co-coordinator for the coalition. “We are your neighbors, teachers, co-workers and your classmates.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana also joined the coalition in opposing the construction of the detention center.

Ashley Toruno, a community engagement associate with the ACLU, said that they’re concerned with private companies such as CoreCivic operating outside of public oversight and accountability.
“With no one to hold them accountable, private immigration detention centers have maintained a particularly grisly track record of detainee abuse and neglect across the nation,” said Toruno.

If the county plan commission approves the rezoning proposal, county commissioners are expected to make the final decision on the request, possibly at their meeting on March 19.

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