A private corrections company says it is considering opening an immigration detention center in Pembroke Township, renewing debate that intersects economic development and immigration policy.
According to a spokesperson for the company, Management and Training Corp., MTC is working on a proposal for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to build a 700-person detention center in the eastern part of Kankakee County.
Three separate plans submitted by other companies have been nixed in nearby Crete and Gary, Ind., in recent years.
On Saturday, opponents of the detention center organized a rally that drew about 100 people.
"Folks are putting the cart in front of the horses," said Mark Hodge, Hopkins Park mayor. "We are one of six (sites). We could get weeded out in this stage."
According to Issa Arnita, a spokesperson for MTC, ICE has been requesting information from the company on a possible detention center.
"We are looking at Hopkins Park as a potential site for the facility. It's still early in the process, but that's the status right now," Arnita said in an email.
"MTC has been meeting and partnering with the Hopkins Park mayor and village council on this project for the past four years," Anita said. "Representatives from Pembroke Township and Kankakee County boards have also been involved with recent meetings and have been very supportive of the project."
Arnita said MTC has operated a similar facility for ICE in Calexico, Calif., since 2014.
The privately-owned company is located in Centerville, Utah, and employs about 9,000 people.
Last year, the company lost a contract with the state of Arizona following a riot at one of its facilities there that left 16 people injured.
A state investigation found MTC had "a culture of disorganization, disengagement and disregard" of state prison policies.
MTC took full responsibility but said the report was flawed.
"We want to inform everybody in the community whether you are for or against," said Raul Hernandez, of the organizers of Saturday's protest. "We are for doing what the community wants. We need stores, gas stations and other businesses, but we believe this is not the way."
Hernandez is second generation Mexican-American. He moved to Pembroke nine years ago from Chicago. His family has ties to the area going back to the 1970s.
"This is beautiful country out here," Hernandez said. "Kankakee County has a rich history and part of it is the Underground Railroad that ran through Pembroke. We have plants and trees found nowhere else.
"This is a nice town and a community. We don't want to be known for this facility."