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"Not here"

Sonny Garcia speaks to a group of protesters against a federal detention center for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally, in Dwight, on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, ahead of a planning commission meeting. The commission recommended that the Village Board work with Immigration Centers of America to open the facility just outside Dwight's boundaries.

DWIGHT — A decision on a proposed federal immigrant detention center in Dwight still is two weeks away, but opponents of the facility are doing everything they can to persuade village officials to vote down the project.

ICA attorney Frank Cortina Jr. sent a letter to Village Administrator Kevin McNamara on Thursday to ask for the delay.

“Some unforeseen matters have arisen and I will be out of the country,” he wrote. “Naturally, I should be present when action is taken on ICA’s petitions and the Plan Commission recommendations.”

Cortina said he and ICA representatives would be available at the March 11 meeting.

Officials say the $20 million facility, which would employ about 280 people  once in operation, would boost the local economy.

About 40 people attended Monday night's board meeting, and several spoke against the project. 

Constance Smart of Crete said her town on the southern edge of the Chicago suburbs in Will County discussed a similar project for a year before it was rejected.

"We learned that people lost jobs because they were improperly detained," she said. "It doesn't sound like the city has done their due diligence in learning about this."

Sonny Garcia of Bloomington said he hopes a better solution can be found, but the village can expect a long battle if it moves forward with the project.

"This is getting a lot of attention around the state," he said. "If you vote 'yes' for this, we are committed to fight this for the long haul. Dwight is a good community, but you are stuck between a rock and a hard place."

Tom Cullen, the president of the local ACLU of Central Illinois chapter, said: "We are hoping the people of Dwight will make the right and moral decision here. This is a liability issue and the ACLU opposes private prisons, and make no mistake: This is a prison."

Mary Hayes of Peoria told the council to look for other areas to invest.

"If i were you, I would put money into something other then something that is immoral where people are locked in cages," she said.


Photos: Dwight immigration detention center recommended

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Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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