Plan to build new detention center canceled

Immigration officials pull detention center plan

Published On: Jun 15 2012 05:38:01 PM EDT   Updated On: Jun 17 2012 09:59:38 AM EDT
Protesters
SOUTHWEST RANCHES, Fla. -

A controversial proposal to build an immigration detention center in Southwest Ranches has been pulled.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement Friday saying it will not be building the detention center.

"One of the greatest values we offer our government partners is the flexibility to meet their changing circumstances," Corrections Corporation of America Senior Director of Public Affairs Steven Owen told Local 10 in a statement. "We understand ICE's decision not to proceed with a civil detention facility. We are grateful for ICE's tentative selection of our site and Southwest Ranches' interest in partnering with CCA."

The 1,400-bed facility was planned for a 22-acre piece of land.

"ICE has reevaluated its need for an additional detention facility in South Florida and has decided that it will no longer pursue a facility in the Town of Southwest Ranches," the agency said in its statement. "We are examining our options for additional detention space in the region and will make the appropriate notifications when a decision about the way forward has been made."

Many residents in Southwest Ranches were opposed to the facility

Shortly after the decision was made, an email was sent out inviting Southwest Ranches residents to celebrate at the Seminole truck stop on US 27 north of Griffin Road. Michael Hanley was just one of the many who celebrated Friday night.

"I felt the income didn't justify the possible risk of devaluation of the property," Hanley said.

The battle to stop the facility was long fought. Several headed to town hall meetings, paired with an online campaign that launched the small town into the national spotlight.

"We are living in an unprecedented time for democracy where the citizens can have a huge impact on the community," Southwest Ranches resident Bill Discipio said. "We got 40,000 hits over the past few months, not bad for a grassroots effort."

Lots of people in the town think Pembroke Pines' decision to end a contract providing water and sewer to the site played a big role in the project's end. While many champion that council, one woman who lives nearby said it was a bad decision.

"I am going to ask my mayor to sue Pembroke Pines," Marygay Chaples said. "I want the money that we are losing. The million and half that we would have gotten had this materialized and it would have materialized if Pines had not pulled the stunt they did."
Chaples has lived on the land for 50 years and said newcomers to the area should have done their homework. She said because CCA's business is building prisons, and they own the land, even though the immigration detention center fell through, they could still build a prison on the site.

"If I had a choice, on a zoning like that, this was the most ideal zoning they could do," Chaples said. "They can cheer and that's fine if they want to look at this as a victory. It's temporary because they still have the zoning."

Resident Mike Hanley said he understands this and that CCA still has the right to do what they want with their property.

"We don't know what the future is going to hold so it may be a shallow victory, but at least it is a beginning," he said.

His neighbor, Discipio had stronger words for CCA.

"I pity if they try to put another prison over there. Let them try."