The Dwight Village Board voted in favor of building an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention center in spite of a raucous crowd full of protesters Monday evening.
Roughly 250 people showed up to the Dwight High School gymnasium in anticipation of the board’s decision to partner with the Immigration Centers of America, who laid out plans to the Dwight Planning Commission on Feb. 19.
Little was said by village trustees or by Village President Jared Anderson; nearly all of the discussion came from the public comment period when attendees took to the podium to air their thoughts for or against the construction of the detention center.
“There is something very unsettling about a company with economic interests in incarcerating people for money,” said Janice Jayes, a history professor at Illinois State University. “The Department of Justice is trying to put an end to these contracts and the Department of Homeland Security has put out very negative reports.”
The dissent from “outsiders” was met with outcry from a few Dwight residents, such as Mark Scott, who first referred to the protesters as such.
“These people from out of town don’t care about Dwight,” Leslie Gingery told trustees. “They care about immigration, and that’s for Washington to decide, not us. We can help the people in the detention center, and if it’s going to be built regardless, it might as well be here. We elected you. We have faith in you.”
Several mentions were made of Dwight’s economic situation: With a population of 4,000, some residents said businesses in town struggle to break even and the loss of 350 prison jobs post-closure of the Dwight Correctional Center has been crippling.
“With (Gov. JB) Pritzker passing the $15 an hour minimum wage, that could be the nail in the coffin for (LSC Communications, formerly R.R. Donnelley),” Scott said. “We lose that, we lose our school. Approve this detention center and don’t listen to these people with no vested interest in Dwight.”
When Jennifer Carrillo, of Illinois People’s Action, took the podium and asked everyone against the building of a detention center to stand, a majority of the room stood. People began chanting, “No more racist solutions” before police escorted the chanters out, who left willingly.
Frank Cortina, an attorney for Immigration Centers of America, explained the details of the deal with Dwight in more detail, saying the annexation agreement does not require the village to provide any money and lets the ICA use the land under a special use provision. He also said since the facility is a civil detention facility rather than a criminal detention facility, it will not be involved in the separation of any families.
“I am sympathetic to Dwight’s situation; it is difficult for small communities to adapt because the opportunities aren’t there like they used to be,” Jayes said. “This might be legal now, but when people look back at this era, they will wonder why anyone thought this was an appropriate solution.”
There is no planned construction of a detention center in Dwight as of the meeting’s conclusion, and one will not be built until ICE declares a need for one. The agreement between Dwight and the ICA will expire September 2020; if the need is not declared by then, the contract can be voided if both parties agree.