'We Don't Want to Participate in Abusing People'.

AuthorGoodman, James

Proposals for immigration detention have sparked grassroots opposition strong enough to prompt for-profit prison companies to withdraw detention proposals and persistent enough to get local governments to rethink their welcome. This resistance began before Donald Trump took office but has intensified under him.

Here are some examples of successful resistance efforts:

WISCONSIN: Community opposition recently helped defeat Immigration Centers of America's proposed 500-bed detention facility in New Richmond, Wisconsin, about forty miles from St. Paul. "We don't want to participate in abusing people who are here because they were abused in their home country," says Dan Hansen, who was part of the resistance.

Hundreds of postings against the center appeared on Facebook pages, Hansen says. The city's Facebook page was also targeted. Fliers, shared online and handed out in person, provided information for contacting public officials.

"These were people who got together and pushed back and pushed back hard," says Emilio De Torre, who, as director of community engagement for the ACLU of Wisconsin, helped mobilize the resistance.

In April, city officials issued a lengthy report concluding that the proposed facility did not fit New Richmond's city plan, and Immigration Centers withdrew its proposal.

ILLINOIS: In June, legislation was enacted prohibiting state and local government from entering into agreements with for-profit companies for immigrant detention centers. The measure was prompted by the Village Board of Dwight voting in March to annex eighty-eight acres, clearing the way for an Immigration Centers of America detention facility.

The proposal came after activists successfully organized against possible detention centers over the past eight years at three other Illinois sites--Crete, Joliet, and Hopkins Park--as well as four sites in northwest Indiana: Hobart, Gary, Elkhart County, and the Roselawn community of Newton County.

Whether such efforts succeed in keeping immigration detention centers out remains to be seen. Typically, a detention center involves the local government working with ICE and a for-profit prison company. But over the past fourteen months, local governments in places such as Adelanto, California, and Williamson County, Texas, have cut their ties to detention centers. However, this paves the way for ICE to then work directly with the for-profit prison companies to keep the detention centers open.

Illinois might not be able...

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