A community protest against the planned Corrections Corporation of America immigrant detention center (Pic courtesy Gail Tyree)

With more than 100 residents demanding a stop to the construction of an immigration detention center next to the city of Pembroke Pines, commissioners on Wednesday night approved a motion to renegotiate its contract with the town of Southwest Ranches to supply water and sewage to the detention center.

Pembroke Pines signed an agreement in June to supply fire and rescue services to the federally funded but privately run immigration detention center, set to be built on land owned by the Corrections Corporation of America but surrounded by Pembroke Pines and unincorporated Broward County.

Southwest Ranches is partnering with the private prison firm Corrections Corporation of America (commonly known as CCA), the largest private immigration detention contractor in the country. According to Detention Watch Network, CCA “operates a total of 14 [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]-contracted facilities with a total of 14,556 beds. In 2009, CCA averaged a daily population of 6,199 detained immigrants.”

Pembroke Pines Vice Mayor Iris Siple proposed the motion to renegotiate the contract because residents were not given the chance to discuss language that obligates Pembroke Pines to supply water and sewage to the detention center.

The motion also instructs the city manager to commission studies on the impact the detention center will have on the environment, roads, safety and property values. The city attorney explained the decision to renegotiate is unilateral and Southwest Ranches does not have to accept.

Commissioner Angelo Castillo, who said he has opposed the detention center from the beginning, said, “I have spoken to the federal government and they have said this is happening,” adding, “We need to sit down with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to get answers on safety.”

Castillo also told residents, “You cannot get action here but in Southwest Ranches and with the federal government.”

But more than a dozen residents who spoke demanded the city commission lead the protest, asking if the city had done impact studies and suggesting their city “take away the financial attraction for Southwest Ranches.”

A Southwest Ranches resident suggested that Pembroke Pines “fulfill the terms of this contract but then tell Southwest Ranches to not come back.” He said his elected officials are not talking about the deal and not answering to residents opposed to the detention center.

“I have also spoken to the federal government and they have said this is not a done deal,” Siple said. “There are two sites being looked at, because there are issues with this site.”

Kathy Bird of the Florida Immigrant Coalition told commissioners that Immigration and Customs Enforcement said “there are problems with this deal.”

“CCA wants to model the Southwest Ranches facility along the lines of the T. Don Hutto center in Texas,” Bird said. That facility is owned and operated by CCA. Recent reports indicate that T. Don Huttto is currently under investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for allegations that a guard sexually assaulted female detainees.

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