Candidates quizzed on immigrant center being considered in Joliet
By Bob Okon email@example.com October 30, 2012 10:46AM
Updated: December 1, 2012 6:25AM
JOLIET — The idea of an immigrant detention center in Joliet was a big topic Monday at a candidates forum sponsored by several Hispanic groups.
Candidates mostly sidestepped the issue, but it’s high on the agenda of the groups that put together the forum at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.
“We say no to building a for-profit immigration prison,” Alicia Morales, the moderator of the event, said at the start of the forum, leaving little doubt in the candidates’ minds as to what a popular answer might be.
A few of the candidates questioned the use of a private company to operate such a center. But the only firm opposition came from a candidate who was represented by proxy.
Drew Ranich, who appeared on behalf of 49th Senate District candidate Garrett Peck, a Republican, noted there is legislation pending in Springfield that would outlaw privatized jails and prisons.
“Garrett does not think correctional facilities should be privatized,” Ranich said. “I believe he does not support this facility coming to Joliet.”
Joliet’s city manager has talked with representatives from Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement about locating a detention center in the city. A similar plan was rejected this year in Crete, with Hispanics from Joliet joining the opposition.
City Manager Thomas Thanas has characterized the talks as exploratory.
State Sen. Patrick McGuire, D-Joliet, said at the forum that he has been told by Thanas and Mayor Thomas Giarrante that “the talks are very, very, very preliminary.”
“If Joliet shows interest in this center, everything has to be clear and transparent, and every party’s interest has to be heard,” McGuire said.
The candidates at the forum would not have any direct say on the project because none are running for the Joliet City Council. But strong opposition from a legislator who Joliet needs on other issues could weigh on a decision on whether to bring the project to the city.
One of the reasons the issue was brought up at the forum was to show how important it is in the Hispanic community, said Angel Contreras, a community organizer who works on getting out the vote in Joliet. Contreras said news of the detention center has stirred up civic interest in Hispanic neighborhoods.
“That’s an issue that fired people up,” Contreras said. “They come out to vote when they hear about it.”
Among those asked about the detention center were Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow and his Republican opponent, Dave Carlson.
Glasgow said he objected to Corrections Corporation of America running the detention center because of the company’s track record.
“I don’t think that company is the appropriate company to be involved,” he said, not ruling out the facility completely.
Carlson said he had a “personal opinion,” which he did not share, and concluded, “I don’t think we have enough information on how it will affect the community.”