Broward County residents are protesting plans for the privately run immigration detention center. The city of Southwest Ranches has partnered with private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America-which manages approximately 75,000 inmates in more than 60 facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia, five of which are in Florida. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Southwest Ranches residents opposed to the proposed immigration detention center held a protest rally and are considering filing a lawsuit to block the project. Out of a phone survey of 250 Southwest Ranches residents carried out by the Florida Immigrant Coalition, 89% said they opposed the detention center. The Sun-Sentinel adds that the center would be built on land bordering the city of Pembroke Pines near U.S. Highway 27 at an estimated cost of $100 million to $200 million. According to the newspaper, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman said a final decision is expected within 120 days.
As you may recall, ICE had announced back in June that it had “tentatively” chosen a site in Southwest Ranches as the location for its proposed immigration detention center. In May, the Florida Independent reported that Corrections Corporation had already won approval from Southwest Ranches officials for the proposed facility, with beds for up to 1,500 detainees, but the company and the city sought permission to expand it to 2,200 beds, if necessary, to help meet ICE’s requirements. ICE’s practice of housing detainees in private facilities has come under fire from civil rights groups and immigrant advocates, but documents from the city and the company describe efforts to offer more humane conditions for detainees who pose no security threat in comparison to other facilities where they are currently detained. A Detention Watch Network report released in May indicates that ICE maintains a daily population of more than 32,000 immigrant detainees. According to the report, in the last five years the number of immigrants detained and the cost of detaining them has doubled, costing taxpayers $1.7 billion at an average of $122 a day per bed, and nearly 2.5 million individuals have passed through immigration detention facilities since 2003. Clearly this makes for a very profitable business for private companies like Corrections Corporation, yet is this prospect really a good one for the residents of this Florida county? We just hope this issue can get settled without discord.