Gary says no to GEO detention center

Source: Ed Bierschenk, NWI Times, May 4, 2016

An attempt to build an immigration detention center in Gary has failed. A request for variances on property that was to be used for the detention center in Gary failed 9-0 Wednesday night. … On April 12, the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 to recommend the request for variance be rejected by the City Council. The council took up the matter on April 19, but by a 4-4 vote failed to move it to committee for a hearing. Councilman Herb Smith, D-at large, who is in favor of the project, then announced he wanted the matter to be heard at the next meeting. Smith on Wednesday asked that the issue be deferred, which caused shouts of “no” to erupt from the audience. Some council members and audience members thought the action at the prior council meeting already had killed the variance request. The majority of the council did not want to defer the matter, but wanted to take a final vote Wednesday. …


Gary City Council could vote on GEO Wednesday
Source: Carole Carlson, Chicago Tribune, May 2, 2016

Two ordinances that could lead to the GEO Group opening a $80 million private immigration detention facility are on the agenda for the Gary Common Council’s 6 p.m. Wednesday meeting at City Hall. GEO needs the rezoning of four parcels to complete its purchase of 24 acres across from the Gary/Chicago International Airport. The detention facility would hold 800 beds. It’s unclear, however, if the council will cast votes on the ordinances. Council President Ron Brewer couldn’t be reached for comment. …

GEO opponents critical of pact providing benefits for city
Source: Carole Carlson, Chicago Tribune, April 29, 2016

Before the GEO Group approached the Gary Board of Zoning Appeals in November, it forged a pact with the Gary Economic Development Corp. on Sept. 23 that listed benefits it agreed to provide if it won approval for an immigration detention facility across from the Gary/Chicago International Airport. That memorandum of understanding is now public, and it’s drawing criticism from opponents of the detention center project. … Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Friday the memorandum was consistent with her prior support for the GEO project. She said she withdrew her support for the project and the MOU on Nov. 11. …

Airport president: GEO project doesn’t fit ‘overall scheme’
Source: Andrew Steele, NWI Times, April 25, 2016

As debate swirls around a proposed immigrant detention center north of the Gary/Chicago International Airport, the airport authority’s president on Monday reiterated his opposition to “anything that’s going to jeopardize the growth of the airport.” Airport Authority President Stephen Mays said he would like to see the area immediately around the airport deemed an “airport zone.” … The GEO Group, a multinational company that owns and operates prison and detention centers, wants to build an $80 million facility that would house as many as 800 detainees. It would be just across Airport Road from the heart of the air field’s jet servicing and other facilities. The full board has not taken an official position on the immigrant detention center, but Mays said he did address the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, which registered its disapproval of The GEO Group project on April 12.

UPDATE: Protesters, supporters come out for GEO meeting
Source: Ed Bierschenk, NWI Times, April 20, 2016

… The opponents may have the upper hand based on council action Tuesday. The council ultimately declined to refer a variance request for land at the airport to be used for the detention center to committee for a second reading. Instead, the request is expected to come back before the council on May 4 when it will reportedly need to have 6 of the 9 council members vote in favor of the variance if it is to be approved. The Gary Board of Zoning Appeals last week voted against recommended granting the zoning variances for the parcels of land. …

A Proposal For An Immigrant Detention Center To Be Built In Gary Hits A Snag
Source: Michael Puente, WBEZ, April 13, 2016

A proposal to build a controversial immigrant detention center in Gary, Indiana has hit a snag. Florida-based GEO Group hopes to build a $65 million facility to hold undocumented immigrants as they await travel to their country of origin. The company says it would employ up to 200 people and would run the facility for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. GEO Group needs a zoning variance to build the facility on abandoned industrial land just north of the Gary/Chicago International Airport. Gary’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 to send an unfavorable recommendation to the Gary City Council, which meets next week. The vote came after about two hours worth of testimony, mostly from opponents of the project. … This is the fourth attempt to build an immigrant detention center somewhere south of Chicago.  In 2012, U.S. Immigration and Enforcement (ICE) failed to secure a site in south suburban Crete, Ill., a short distance from Gary.  Two years ago, GEO Group, on behalf of ICE, approached Hobart, Indiana but the opposition grew too strong. Late last year, GEO Group approached the City of Gary for the facility. After initially supporting the idea, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson changed her mind.

People Over For-Profit Prisons: a Social Movement in Gary, Indiana
Source: Paul Street, Counter Punch, April 8, 2016

One particularly inspiring and instructive example of such people’s activism can be found in the predominantly Black city of Gary, Indiana. A multiracial and multi-ethnic coalition there has been engaged in a remarkable struggle with a powerful private, for-profit prison corporation. … But then things quickly fell apart for GEO. The prison firm’s Gary profit dreams were dashed by people’s power. The proposal was shot down within a mere twelve days after it was announced. GEO’s plan needed approval from the Gary City Council’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). On November 10th, roughly 100 people crowded into BZA’s hearing room, “chanting slogans and waving signs. The day after the raucous protest,” Tolan reported, “the mayor announced that she had changed her mind and now opposed the proposal. And a few days later, GEO withdrew its request to rezone the property to allow a prison facility.”

Activists again express ire over Gary detention center plan
Source: Gregory Tejeda, Chicago Tribune, April 6, 2016

The detention center is part of a federal plan to have private companies build five such facilities across the United States — with a Gary-based center servicing the Midwest. It would be used to hold people who are facing violations of federal immigration law while their cases are pending. Currently, the federal government has to contract out to county jails across the country to hold such people, and that has activists concerned that people who aren’t facing criminal charges are being held in jail. The same activists are upset that any jail-like facility would be built, particularly one run by a private company. … The Common Council did not act on the issue Tuesday, although Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she remains opposed to the proposal — a stance Venturella said he respects.

GEO trying again for Gary detention center
Source: Carole Carlson, Chicago Tribune, March 26, 2016

Four months after withdrawing a variance request for a controversial immigration processing and detention center near the Gary/Chicago International Airport, the GEO Group Inc. is back. On April 12, it will ask the Board of Zoning Appeals for a use variance for the same property, northwest of the airport. The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. at City Hall, 401 Broadway. GEO spokesman Armando Saleh confirmed Friday the company is returning for the variance request to build a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility. … GEO hopes to build an 800-bed immigrant detention center on three parcels along Industrial Highway, across from the airport. The MIDCO II Environmental Clean Up superfund site is on the east side of the parcels. Saleh said GEO has an option to purchase the properties, contingent on the rezoning.

Gary mayor says request for immigration detention center withdrawn
Source: Gregory Tejeda, Post-Tribune, November 18, 2015

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Tuesday that officials with a Boca Raton, Fla.-based company has withdrawn its plans to operate a detention center in Gary that would have held people facing charges, and eventual deportation, with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. GEO Group Ltd. wants to build a detention center that would be used for immigration cases across the Midwestern United States, and had approached Gary city officials to talk of building such a facility across the road from the Gary/Chicago International Airport. … Specifically, they are no longer asking that four plots of land on Industrial Road be rezoned to accommodate a detention center. That issue was scheduled to come before the city’s zoning board on Monday.

GEO Group drops request for immigrant detention center near Gary Chicago airport
Source: Associated Press, November 17, 2015

A Florida-based company has withdrawn its request for a zoning variance to build an 800-bed immigration detention facility near the Gary Chicago International Airport. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson announced the news at a city council meeting Tuesday. She recently had withdrawn her support for the project.

Gary mayor withdraws support for proposed immigration detention center
Source: Michael Puente, WBEZ, November 12, 2015

The mayor of Gary, Indiana is pulling her support for the building of a detention center to house undocumented immigrants in her city.    The lure of 200 to 300 new jobs for the struggling Steel City had been the rationale for Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s initial support. … The for-profit Florida-based prison company GEO Group was looking at building a $65 million processing facility for undocumented immigrants just north of the Gary Chicago International Airport. The project could have generated up to $1 million in property taxes for a city that’s struggling to pay its police and fire personnel and keep many of its public schools open.    But soon after it was announced, opposition began to swell. … Gary has an unemployment rate of 18 percent, more than three times the state average at 4.5 percent. But Freeman Wilson, a former Indiana attorney general and civil rights attorney, says she began to share activists’ concerns.

Large immigration detention center proposed near Gary airport
Source: Ed Bierschenk,, November 7, 2015

The GEO Group, Inc., which manages similar facilities around the country — some of which have been criticized for their treatment of immigrants — is seeking a zoning variance to be able to use the land for a detention center that could temporarily house several hundred people. According to documents filed by the company, the “proposed facility will properly manage individuals who are in immigration proceedings before a federal immigration judge.” The company said the facility would represent an approximate $65 million investment and create possibly more than 200 jobs. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who is supportive of the proposal, said it is her understanding the wages would fall in the $13 to $15 per hour range. …