Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (Pic by MarioDB, via Flickr)

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, sent a letter this week to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stating his opposition to the location of a publicly funded, privately managed immigration detention center to be built in South Florida.

The detention center would be built on land administered by the town of Southwest Ranches and owned by the Corrections Corporation of America, but surrounded by residential areas of Pembroke Pines and unincorporated Broward County.

Diaz-Balart writes: “Although the facility is not located within the Congressional District I represent, I have been approached by residents concerned that the facility will have a detrimental impact on the local and surrounding communities.” According to Diaz-Balart, residents have told him “the facility could affect property value, traffic and noise to the area, utility consumption,” adding that “the potential site is less than five miles away from a dozen schools.”

The congressman writes that until these issues are “appropriately addressed, [he is] opposed to the location of the detention facility.”

Residents of Pembroke Pines and the town of Southwest Ranches have voiced opposition to the federally funded and privately managed detention center since ICE announced it had chosen the Southwest Ranches/Corrections Corporation of America proposal in June. Citizens have even called for the resignation of Southwest Ranches Mayor Jeff Nelson.

At a town hall meeting held on Nov. 5 in the city of Pembroke Pines, about 250 southwest Broward residents told local and federal officials, as well as prison industry executives, that they don’t want an immigration detention center in their area.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Pembroke Pines, represents the district where the detention facility would be built; she said late last week that the center would have the least negative impact on residents and create short-term and long-term jobs.

In an April 2011 letter, Wasserman Schultz and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., stated their support for “the application by the Town of Southwest Ranches, Florida, in response to the ‘Request for IGSA Concept Proposal: Miami’ issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

According to Deetention Watch Network, Corrections Corporation of America (known as CCA) “operates a total of 14 ICE-contracted facilities with a total of 14,556 beds. In 2009, CCA averaged a daily population of 6,199 detained immigrants.

Detention Watch adds that CCA spent $18 million on federal lobbying “from 1999 to 2009. The bulk of this was between 2003 and 2007, when CCA spent between $2,020,000 and $3,800,000 each year, averaging over $3 million per year.”

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