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Proposed Immigration Detentin Center in South Florida Cannot be Built Without Enivronmental Review

November 10, 2011

Media Contact: Natalia Jaramillo, natalia@floridaimmigrant.org, (786) 317-3524

The Florida Immigrant Coalition demands that ICE stop negotiations with SW Ranches and CCA until they abide by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and conduct a full, fair, honest and public  environmental review

Photo from Florida Independent

Miami, FL – Florida Legal Services, representing the Florida Immigrant Coalition, sent a letter  yesterday afternoon to Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, demanding that her Department halt any negotiations regarding the proposed immigration detention center in Southwest Ranches until the Department conducts a full  NEPA environmental review.

Currently, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is considering signing an agreement with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the Town of Southwest Ranches, to start building a massive immigration detention center with capacity for at least 1,500 beds.

NEPA requires that all federal projects must be assessed to determine their impacts on the environment.  This environmental review must be performed as early as possible in the planning. This process ensures that all environmental consequences are taken into consideration, including  impacts on the Everglades, water, traffic, home values, utility consumption, property values, and future development all of which impact local residents’ quality of life.

When questioned at the public meeting held on Nov. 5th, CCA representatives stated that because they are a private company and are building the facility from their own money, that they are not subject to NEPA.  However, Elsesser cites regulations which state that “federal projects” include “projects and programs entirely or partly financed, assisted, conducted, regulated, or approved by federal agencies.”  As the letter states, “Any detention facility will be built only as a result of the execution of this agreement with CCA.  Moreover, the size, shape, population and indeed, very existence, of the detention facility is being dictated by [the federal government].   In the absence of this IGSA, quite simply, there would be no new detention facility built in South Florida.” The letter then describes court cases with very similar facts in which a NEPA environmental review was required.

This is more than just a technicality. Failure to review these impacts, as required by law, subverts a public discussion and public review of the project while it is still possible to change direction. The size of this facility, which could be one of the largest in the country, will significantly impact the quality of the human environment not only for Southwest Ranches residents, but also for large communities in Pembroke Pines that surround the area,” explains Charles Elsesser, Attorney from Florida Legal Services representing the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “There has already been significant controversy tied to this development including the size, location, and close proximity to homes and schools in the area; as well as allegations of lack of transparency and public input. These are factors that would be covered in any legitimate environmental review process.”

According to NEPA, it is the responsibility of the federal agency in charge of this project, to consider all the consequences it may bring immediately after the proposals are received and well before making any decision or signing an agreement.

“There has been no transparency or space for public input or democratic participation during this whole process. If ICE doesn’t provide the adequate studies and considers public input before signing any deal, it will send a clear message: that the agency’s priority is not to protect and serve the community, but to benefit the business of detention and the companies that profit from it,” comments Kathy Bird, organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

The City of Pembroke Pines had signed a deal to provide Emergency Medical Service and Water to Southwest Ranches for the facility.  Last month, the Pembroke Pines City Commission, under tremendous public pressure, reopened negotiations with Southwest Ranches until impact statements were done regarding water use and other concerns from residents.  If the results are not positive, they may rescind the agreement and the facility would not be able to get water from Pembroke Pines.

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For more information about our campaign, visit our blog www.ccagoaway.org

The Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) works to achieve equal rights for immigrants and integration into the civic and cultural life of our communities. We accomplish our mission through coordination of immigrant organizations and community education, organizing and advocacy.

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