The South Bend nonprofit La Casa de Amistad hosted a meeting Thursday, to discuss the details of the recent consideration of Elkhart County as the site for a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, detention facility by the private company CoreCivic.
Residents of St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties gathered to write letters to urge local government leaders to vote down CoreCivic’s proposal to build the facility when the proposal is presented.
CoreCivic has not yet filed a formal proposal for the facility, but if filed, Elkhart County Commissioners will have the final vote on whether the proposal moves forward. According to NPR, ICE is proposing five new private detention centers in cities nationwide, including Chicago and Detroit.
Coordinator with the Coalition Against the Elkhart County Detention Center Richard Aguirre said he’s amazed at the amount of interest and attention the idea of a detention facility in Elkhart has garnered. Aguirre spoke at the event about the impact a privately owned detention center could have on Elkhart County.
“I think we’re in a really good place, there hasn’t been a proposal filed yet, but we’ve got a coalition of about 1,300 members, we have membership from all over Northern Indiana,” he said, “We have a strong presence in South Bend. We have people in Elkhart, we have people in Fort Wayne, from Michigan, from Illinois, so we’re really happy about that,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said the letters aren’t just intended for Elkhart County officials, but for all officials in Michiana, because the facility would also serve surrounding counties.
Lisa Koop of the National Immigrant Justice Center was also a speaker at the event. She presented the group with information about detention centers nationwide. She says events like this showcase the will of a community, and while email might like the quickest way to get a message across, getting people together to engage in the act of writing letters builds support, education and awareness around the issue.
Koop said the aim of the event was to bring to light the effects a detention center could have on not just Elkhart County, but the Michiana area as a whole. She said she believes the exploration conversation is not over yet, and there’s a good chance the community will be able to stop the proposal from going any further.
“If it does move forward, I think we would continue to explore ways to express our opposition and whether that takes the form of trying to harness public opinion or exploring other ways to hopefully dissuade our community from moving forward with this,” Koop said, “I think some of the strategies remain to be seen and would depend on what our local lawmakers do.”