A town hall meeting to discuss a proposed federal immigrant detention center in the south suburbs was called off today due to security concerns related to the NATO summit, officials said.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. postponed the meeting at the Crete-Monee 6th Grade Center School after conferring with law enforcement officials “due to security concerns raised by NATO and outside protesters who are threatening to come to Crete,” according to a statement released by Jackson’s office. The meeting was to be hosted by Jackson, Congressman Luis Gutierrez and officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“The Congressman remains opposed to a detention center in Crete, and ICE officials remain committed to coming to Crete to listen to residents’ concerns before any decision is made,” the statement read. “We will reschedule the meeting soon.”
ICE selected Crete as the potential site for an 800-bed immigrant detention center to be built and managed by Corrections Corporation of America, a proposal that has drawn criticism from some Crete residents and immigration advocacy groups.
Opponents said today they felt the postponement was an effort to sidestep open discussion on the controversial proposal.
Rozalinda Borcia, an organizer with the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign, said a small group of protesters had planned to attend the meeting.
“We were thrown a curveball,” said Borcia, 41. “It’s an attempt to work against people who are trying to organize. We think that they’re using a small bit of dissent as an excuse to pull out of the discussions. We were promised a discussion with ICE, and we will have a discussion with ICE.”
“Residents were prepared to ask about the lower property values, public safety concerns and resource drain commonly caused by new prison construction,” read a statement on the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights website. “The residents of Crete have never had the opportunity to question ICE, Crete (Village President Michael) Einhorn or village trustees regarding the proposed detention center, and discussions of the center have lacked transparency and accountability.”
Einhorn could not immediately be reached for comment.
ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro echoed the security concerns in the agency’s decision not to participate and said it will consider rescheduling at a later date.
“Community outreach is a priority for ICE,” Montenegro said in a statement. “It is ICE’s goal to enhance our understanding of community concerns related to the proposed detention facility.”