There is buzz around Evanston, about a new kind of business that might be coming to town. Some residents see it as new job opportunities for locals, others call it another way to round people up as prisoners.
Controversy is coming from both sides of the aisle. No matter how a citizen views this issue, one thing is for certain — there is interest in Evanston, in the form of building an ICE detention center.
For those who are unfamiliar with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it is a federal entity whose goal is, “Enforcing federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration to promote homeland security and public safety.” In short, it finds immigrants who are residing in the United States illegally and finds ways to either seek permanent asylum here or deport them back to their country of origin. This agency is considering a processing center in Evanston, but it will not have the kind of oversight one might expect.
Taking on the task of building and running the facility comes from a party that is from the outside. No, ICE itself will not be running it; rather a corporation called Management and Training Corporation (MTC), a for-profit company based in Centerville, Utah, will.
MTC has its hands in a number of businesses — from running job corps, which teaches numerous trades to people, to owning and operating private prisons. A company that preaches rehabilitation of offenders, MTC states it “provide(s) individuals in their care with a comfortable, helpful, and attentive environment. ICE detainees are housed at MTC facilities for very short periods of time. During that time, MTC provides these men and women with opportunities to further their education, to participate in meaningful activities, and to prepare in all ways to return to their homes and families.”
From the outside looking in, this sounds like a respectable, honorable business plan. Yet, it has been met with detractors.
A group called WyoSayNo is adamantly opposing the building of this detention center. Calling themselves a “grassroots coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to stopping the proposed Uinta County Immigration Prison.”
WyoSayNo has its reasons for opposing the project. They cite poor and inhumane conditions some detainees have been subject to and financial promises made to communities that were broken. They also claim MTC has a lack of transparency or accountability when problems arise. Furthermore, the group exclaims that they believe in, “Keeping families together, protecting rural communities, and that ‘Wyoming won’t detain for private gain.’”
After divulging these two perspectives, it comes down to what the citizens of Evanston want: job creation or social justice?
As a citizen, not of Evanston, but of Wyoming, I understand the need for job creation in the state.
As a former deputy sheriff, I believe in law and order. This is not the way to do it.
Since MTC admits that these potential detainees are not “hardened criminals,” there is no reason to lock them up in a detention facility. If immigrants commit more heinous crimes, say a violent crime, they belong in a county jail like any other person.
Corrections should not be a for-profit model. It is a crime-and-punishment institution. The “solution” that MTC is pushing forward is not one that should be enacted.
In 2015, a riot broke out at an MTC-managed facility in Raymondville, Texas, over “uninhabitable” conditions. The facility housed 2,384 people, who were transferred to other facilities following the shutdown. This little Texas town was sent reeling over the 400 jobs lost by local citizens from the closure of the center. Nearly $130 million was still owed on the “tent city,” as it has come to be known.
Raymondville should serve as a cautionary tale for Evanston. Do not let private industries overtake a criminal justice issue that is hardly an issue. If criminal problems manifest within the immigrant community, leave it to the capable local law enforcement to sort it out.