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State lawmaker fails in bid to block Crete detention center

Updated: June 1, 2012 10:42AM



A plan to block a privately-run, immigrant detention center in south suburban Crete failed Thursday in the Illinois House.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Edward Acevedo (D-Chicago), which needed 60 votes to pass, fell short of that threshold in a 55-61 roll call, with one member voting present.

“I’d rather the government deal with detainees rather than a private company because once that happens, it’s no longer about a human being,” Acevedo said. “It’s about making money.”

Acevedo was able to keep the legislation alive for another vote through a parliamentary maneuver, though.

Crete is the potential home of a 788-bed facility that would house immigration detainees sent there by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The village wants the project, which would be operated by Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, because of the jobs and other economic benefits it would generate.

Critics of Acevedo’s legislation argued the proposed facility would be a safer place to house potential immigration violators than Cook County Jail, and that a business like the Corrections Corporation is well equipped to operate such a facility.

“Though I don’t believe in the privatization of a state facility, I think there are specific facilities a private company should and could operate,” said Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro).

The proposed detention center, which would hold those awaiting deportation, is opposed by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and other groups critical of U.S. immigration policies. Some residents of the Crete area, too, have opposed the plan.

Corrections Corporation of America, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies, is the same company that owns a prison in Jackson, Miss. where gangs launched a riot earlier this month that involved as many as 300 inmates. A guard was beaten to death and at least 19 other people were injured.

The company houses about 75,000 offenders and detainees in more than 60 facilities around the country, according to its website.

The Nashville company praised those in the House who helped scuttle Acevedo’s legislation.

“Today’s decision is an important step in realizing the Obama administration’s vision for detention, which provides detainees awaiting civil proceedings with a humane and appropriate environment. It also provides important support for economic opportunities in Illinois at a time when the state needs it most,” said CCA spokesman Mike Machak.



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