DWIGHT — The Dwight Planning Commission will consider an annexation agreement later this month that could be the first step in bringing a federal detention center for illegal immigrants to the Livingston County village.
The commission will consider the matter on Feb. 19 and forward a recommendation to the Village Board, Village President Jared Anderson said Wednesday.
“This is a piece of property that is currently not in the village of Dwight, and it’s just one of the things that has to occur in a long process for something like this to happen,” said Anderson.
Immigration Centers of America, headquartered in Richmond, Va., has contacted village officials about an 88-acre parcel of land near Interstate 55 and Illinois 17 for a federal center to house 1,200 men awaiting immigration hearings.
The facility would be managed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The proposal does not include the vacant Dwight Correctional Center, a state women's prison that was closed in 2013 by the Illinois Department of Corrections in a cost-cutting move.
Calls to the Immigration Centers of America were not immediately returned on Wednesday.
If the detention center is built, Anderson said, the estimated $20 million facility would employ about 280 people.
The deal, though, is far from final, he added.
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“They (the company) are scouting several locations around the country,” he said. “They have certain requirements that they are looking for, such as they want it near railroads and a hospital nearby. It should be near a major city like Chicago and so we have a lot of the things they are looking for.”
Amtrak has a depot in Dwight and OSF HealthCare Saint James-John W. Albrecht Medical Center is in nearby Pontiac. Dwight, with a population of about 4,200, is about 80 miles southwest of Chicago. The facility would be located on Dwight's western edge.
Adam Dontz, the CEO for the Greater Livingston County Economic Development Council, said the additional jobs would be great news for the area.
“We recognize the potential of a significant economic impact which may result if Immigration Centers of America develops a facility in Dwight,” he said. “It is anticipated that approximately 280 jobs and approximately $14 million of payroll would be associated with the project. That said, several rounds of review by local and federal officials remain prior to project approval.”
Anderson said that he has talked with local residents about the proposed project.
“I know there are some things on social media that haven’t been all that positive, but really, everyone I have talked with has been very positive. We lost the prison several years ago and that really hurt us as far as jobs and something like this, could be a real benefit for that.”
Immigration Centers of America was founded in 2008 and operates a detention center in Farmville, Va. The company has several pending contracts to build other facilities and would have to be the recipient of a formal bid from the government in order to move forward.
Detainees who are facing criminal charges would be housed in county jails and not in the detention center.
The rooms at the detention center would be unlocked, and the detainees would have access to exercise facilities, if the facility is managed similar to the Farmville complex.
The Dwight Village Board could consider the annexation agreement on Feb. 25.