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Monday, July 25, 2011

One of the nation’s largest immigrant detention facilities may be built in Southwest Ranches

By Roshan Nebhrajani
The Miami Herald
Posted on Fri, Jul. 22, 2011

A 24-acre stretch of land in Southwest Ranches, just off of U.S. 27 bordering Pembroke Pines, may be the future home to one of the nation’s largest immigrant detention facilities.

The proposed center will have 1,800 beds, far surpassing the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach, which has capacity for 700, according to the Immigration Customs Enforcement.

“The new facility’s size is consistent with the existing demand for beds in the Miami area,” said ICE public affairs officer Dani Bennett.

South Florida is home to two of the state’s five facilities: the Krome Service Processing Center and the Broward Transitional Center.

The transitional center “houses only non-violent populations with less serious or no criminal history,” according to Bennett.

Krome is divided into three pods for detainees with serious or criminal backgrounds and six dormitories for non-violent detainees.

Krome has 581 beds and normally operates at or near maximum capacity, according to ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias.

The new facility is going to be built to meet a demand for 1,500 to 2,000 beds in the South Florida area. It will reduce transfers and enable detainees to have better access to legal services in their area, Bennett said.

But immigrant activists have rallied against the new detention facility.

The Florida Immigrant Coalition conducted a phone survey polling the citizens of Southwest Ranches of their opinions of the new facility. The coalition asked: “Do you want a prison in Southwest Ranches?”

Of the 229 residents that responded, 203 — 89 percent — selected no, according to Natalia Jaramillo.

Additionally, “growers are worried about it because it would create an exodus of farm workers,” Jaramillo said.

Community organizer and immigrant rights activist Diego Sanchez thinks the new center will increase immigrant raids. “We’ve seen a lot of those already and it’s only going to get worse,” Sanchez said.

Southwest Ranches was selected over Florida City and Belle Glade, which also applied for the center.

“It would have been a heck of a boost for the economy. It would have created jobs during construction as well as permanent jobs,” said Otis Wallace, Florida City mayor. “But ICE is currently negotiating with Southwest Ranches, and what that means is that all other negotiations are off.”

The Corrections Corporation of America, a private corrections management company, purchased the land in Southwest Ranches in 1998, and has since been marketing the land to officials in Southwest Ranches and government agencies for possible development, according to CCA spokesman Steve Owen.

Although the deal between ICE and Southwest Ranches is, for now, tentative, once Corrections Corporation of America gets the green light to build, they can get the center built “pretty quickly,” according to Owen.

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