With bold and colorful signs that read, “Protect Our Children,” and, “ICE stop destroying families,” over 250 residents of Pembroke Pines and the town of Southwest Ranches, Florida, attended a public meeting Saturday, November 5.
These residents, members of a group called Residents Against SW Ranches ICE Detention Center, came together to voice their opposition to the creation of a new immigration detention center in their area.
In front of local and federal police and prison administration, residents explained how they were concerned about the lack of transparency surrounding the proposal and planning of the detention center. Bill Di Scipio, a concerned resident, commented that community members have been fighting the detention center for nearly 5 months, and that the residents don’t want their community, as he puts it:
“invaded by a facility for a variety of reasons including safety, impact on municipal services, decreased property values, and that they are deeply concerned about being locked out of the debate by a town that has acted in a stealthy manner, imposing ‘cones of silence’ on their elected officials, and town attorneys working with their lobbyists and congressional leaders to get this through under a veil of silence.”
In addition to concerned residents like Di Scipio, the Miami Herald highlighted the high turnout and fervency with which those in attendance made their voices heard with the following:
“When everyone had settled, about 175 residents found seats inside. The other 100 or so stood outside between the building and a small lake, listening to the events unfold over large loudspeakers [….] During the week, angry residents plastered doors all over Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines with notices, crying, ‘Stop the Prison!’.”
The work of the residents of Pembroke Pines and Southwest Ranches withstanding, national resistance to these detention centers is growing exponentially, as well.
Highlighting the scope of this problem and providing some much needed perspective for understanding it, the Detention Watch Network (DWN), which works on a national scale to address injustices stemming from detention centers, states that “The US government detained approximately 380,000 people in immigration custody in 2009 in a hodgepodge of about 350 facilities at an annual cost of more than $1.7 billion.” In addition to the financial cost of such centers, DWN also reports that “About half of all immigrants held in detention have no criminal record at all. The rest may have committed some crime in their past, but they have already paid their debt to society. They are being detained for immigration purposes only.”
The Applied Research Center (ARC), a racial justice think tank and home for media and activism, is also providing useful and creative research that exposes the further unseen dangerous and destructive effects of deportation centers. According to ARC, “There are at least 5,100 children currently living in foster care who are prevented from uniting with their detained or deported parents.”
There are myriad hundreds of reasons that residents of all ages are citing as to why they are coming out and together against the building of these detention centers, and why they are making such noise in order to build safer, stronger, and more inclusive communities for all.
The City of Pembroke Pines Commission will be holding its next meeting on Wednesday, November 16, at 7:30 PM. Residents plan to sustain their vocal opposition to the the building of a detention center there. For more information about Residents Against SW Ranches ICE Detention Center’s cause, and if you’d like to get involved, just click here.