Northern Indiana Atheists Joins Coalition Against the Elkhart County Immigration Detention Center
Northern Indiana Atheists is joined by a broad coalition that includes businesses, churches, education leaders, non-profits, Latino community leaders, and scores of community members to form a Coalition Against the Elkhart County Immigration Detention Center to stop plans for the proposed for-profit prison.
Confirmation came Thursday, Nov. 16 from Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder that CoreCivic, a private prison company that operates immigration detention centers across the country for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is seeking to build a 1,200-bed immigration prison near the county jail in Elkhart County.
As the news of the prison proposal has circulated, community opposition has grown among advocates for immigrants and refugees who believe an immigration prison and the visible presence of federal immigration officers would drive away vulnerable people. Losing large numbers of immigrants would have a devastating impact on local manufacturing companies and businesses that benefit from a diverse clientele. The cultural and social diversity of Elkhart County also would be adversely affected by an exodus of immigrants. Other leaders have objected to the proposal, pointing out that Elkhart County already has a severe worker shortage and that adding a large prison would diminish the county's quality of life.
CoreCivic is seeking county approval to build a minimum-security facility alongside County Road 7 and lease it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to operate as an immigration prison. If approved by the Elkhart County Plan Commission and county commissioners in the coming months, construction could begin as early as next spring, take two years and the prison would be open and ready to operate in 2020.
Although the proposed prison is being described as a minimum-security facility that would only hold convicted felons for a few weeks at a time until they would be deported to their home countries, initial plans for the facility included two courtrooms, according to Commissioner Yoder. If courtrooms are included, the facility also could be used for immigration hearings and would likely house non-convicted immigrants.
The private prison industry had fallen out of favor during President Obama's last full year in office; in fact the U.S. Justice Department had announced it would stop housing convicted felons and immigrants in private prisons. That changed when Donald Trump was elected President. The Trump administration is now planning an increase in federal detention facilities across the country.