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Florida residents protest plans for privately run immigration detention center

Over the weekend, residents of Southwest Ranches — a town in western Broward County — protested the proposed construction of a privately run immigration detention center. #

Southwest Ranches has partnered with the private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America — which manages approximately 75,000 inmates in more than 60 facilities in 19 states and the District of Columbia. It currently manages five facilities in Florida. #

According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Southwest Ranches residents opposed to the proposed immigration detention center held a protest rally Saturday, and are considering a lawsuit to block the project. The Sun-Sentinel also cites the Florida Immigrant Coalition, which carried out a phone survey of 250 Southwest Ranches residents. The Immigration Coalition said that 89 percent of those polled oppose the detention center. #

The Sentinel adds that the center would be built on land bordering the city of Pembroke Pines near U.S. Highway 27 at an estimated cost of $100 million to $200 million. According to the paper, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Nestor Yglesias said a final decision is expected within 120 days. #

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka ICE) announced in June that it had “tentatively” chosen a site in Southwest Ranches as the location for its proposed immigration detention center. #

In May, The Florida Independent reported that Corrections Corporation had already won approval from Southwest Ranches officials for the proposed facility, with beds for up to 1,500 detainees, but the company and the city sought permission to expand it to 2,200 beds, if necessary, to help meet ICE’s requirements. #

ICE’s practice of housing detainees in private facilities has come under fire from civil rights groups and immigrant advocates, but documents from the city and the company describe efforts to offer more humane conditions for detainees who pose no security threat. #

A Detention Watch Network report released in May indicates that ICE maintains a daily population of more than 32,000 immigrant detainees. According to the report, in the last five years the number of immigrants detained and the costs of detaining them has doubled, costing taxpayers $1.7 billion at an average of $122 a day per bed, and nearly 2.5 million individuals have passed through immigration detention facilities since 2003. #

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