Officials in Pembroke Township continue to wait for an answer from the federal government on a proposed immigration detention center.
A few years ago, Utah-based Management and Training Corp., or MTC, a private prison company, turned in a proposal for a 700-bed immigration detention center in eastern Kankakee County. The firm did this with the support of Hopkins Park, a village in Pembroke Township.
This week, The Associated Press reported communities in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan are awaiting word on their proposals for immigration detention centers. Hopkins Park was on the list.
Hopkins Park Mayor Mark Hodge, who spent his career working as an administrator in the California prison system, said an immigration detention center would help his town.
“Most residents I have talked to in Pembroke and Hopkins Park want something that will elevate our community,” the mayor said in an interview. “What they understand is that an immigration center will bring infrastructure and natural gas.”
Hopkins Park, one of the poorest towns in Illinois, has no natural gas service. Its median household income of about $27,000 is half Kankakee County’s.
The immigration center would bring about 300 jobs, many of them paying more than $25 per hour, the mayor said.
Some residents are opposed to an immigration center. More than 100 attended a protest two years ago. And signs reading “No for-profit immigrant prison” still can be seen in the township.
Raul “Coco” Hernandez, a truck driver who moved to Hopkins Park from Chicago in 2009, said he opposed having a prison for people trying to better their lives.
“Hispanics will be the only ones picked on. They’ll stop and profile Hispanics for immigration, not blacks or whites,” said Hernandez, a second-generation Mexican-American.
He also doubted Hopkins Park residents would benefit from employment opportunities at the center, in part, because such jobs require good credit.
“If we had good credit, we’d be living somewhere else like Bourbonnais or Bradley,” he said. “The people working at the immigration center would be from other towns.”
Kankakee County has been looking to detain hundreds more immigrants, which is a revenue source for county government. And across the border in Indiana, Newton County has submitted a proposal with GEO Group for an 800-bed facility.