Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez met with officials from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) today to voice their strong opposition to a proposed immigrant detention center in Crete, Illinois.
Jackson, who's leading opposition to the prison, joined fellow Illinois Congressman Gutierrez, an expert on federal immigration issues, to learn more about the proposed prison from ICE officials. After hearing the details, both congressmen expressed strong opposition to the proposal.
"I don't want the south suburbs to become famous for building prisons and breaking up families," Jackson said. "America is supposed to welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Regardless of your feelings about immigrants, Crete is a vibrant and charming small town. That image would change drastically with a prison."
He added: "I've successfully opposed prison projects in my district for 17 years and will continue to do so. I welcome the additional support of my colleague, Congressman Gutierrez, on this important issue because he is the most knowledgeable person in Congress on immigration policy,
At Jackson's request, ICE agreed to come to Crete to host a town hall meeting on the proposal sometime after the March 20 primary election.
Gutierrez told ICE officials, " Rep. Jesse Jackson is on it. Many people look to me on anything related to immigrants and immigration, but we work as a team and he is an outstanding leader on the immigration issue and for immigrant families in Illinois. He is absolutely right that economic development through detention and deportation is a dead end street and doomed to fail."
Jackson noted that his congressional opponent, Debbie Halvorson, claims to oppose the prison. "However, Crete was selected by the federal government as the preferred prison location in 2010, when she was in Congress. She lives in Crete. Yet she voiced no opposition then."
According to the latest census, 6.3 percent (523 persons) of Crete's residents are Latino. "The proposed detention center would house 750 people. That means there would be more Latinos in jail than live in Crete -- a population half free and half incarcerated," Jackson said.
Crete officials submitted an application for a prison to ICE in 2010 and the village was selected by ICE as its top choice for the detention center. Crete is now negotiating to partner with a private company, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), to construct, own and operate the prison. The proposed 750-bed facility would contain minimum and maximum security cells, ICE said today.