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Elkhart community rallies against ICE Detention Center after application delayed

ELKHART, Ind. - Folks who live in Elkhart County continue to speak out against the proposed ICE Detention Facility, after the private prison company delayed its application submission by 30 days.

Hundreds of people convened at Concord Junior High School Thursday night to rally against the center.

Once CoreCivic submits its application in January, the Tech Committee of the Planning Commission will have the first look.

Then, the Planning Commission reviews it and holds a public hearing.

Finally, it heads to the County Commissioners who hold one last public hearing and decide whether or not to approve it.

The Coalition Against the Elkhart County Immigration Center and its supporters say there are serious negative ramifications if the plan goes through.

“I think it’s devastating. I think it’s really dangerous for our community. I think it puts a third of our population, at least in Goshen, at risk, and people who have been productive members of our society and regardless of the economic impact they have in our community, they’re valid members of our country and our community," said Dominique Chew, who lives and works in Goshen.

“This is the byproduct of a broken immigration system, and we should be investing more into fixing the immigration system that we have heard the last four presidents say is a broken immigration system," said Immigration Education Coordinator for the Mennonite Central Committee, Saulo Padilla.

Padilla says the company will be taking money out of taxpayers' wallets, and they won't be producing anything.

Many of the other concerns opponents to the application raised are human rights violations in CoreCivic prisons, specifically, and ICE detention facilities nationally.

Just this past Tuesday, CoreCivic announced it will be investigating allegations of negligent inmate deaths brought against them by a former correctional officer, according to the Tennessean.

Others say it's just not what they want Elkhart County to be known for.

However, commissioners like Mike Yoder, who showed up Thursday to answer questions, say the decision isn't as easy as the opposition thinks.

"There’s this set of facts, which are factual, and there’s also some additional information that I’m taking a look at, that counters some of this information...We start with the principle of the law and the rules, and then it’s the role of the legislative body, the county commissioners, to say how far do we step away from that, for the benefit, the good of the community?” said Yoder.

Padilla says more than half of the high school and middle school population is Hispanic in Elkhart County, so the issue hits close to the heart for a majority of the commissioners' constituents.

The first public hearing of 2018 will be held in February.

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