Coalition protests over proposed Elkhart Co. immigration detention facility

Coalition protests over proposed Elkhart County immigration detention facility. // WSBT 22 Photo

A protest in South Bend Thursday over a proposed immigration detention facility is being considered in Elkhart County.

Now people are calling upon their local leaders to take a stand against the project. They want to send a message that the construction isn't welcome here.

The "Coalition Against the Elkhart Immigration Detention Center” is growing quickly.

Within eight days, the group has gained hundreds of supporters and they don't plan on slowing down.

More than 100 people packed into Our Lady of the Road in downtown South Bend Thursday. They wanted to show solidarity against construction on the proposed ICE Detention Center.

“There has not even been a proposal filed yet but we already have a coalition of more than 1,300 members. We have membership from all over northern Indiana. Strong presence in South Bend, people in Elkhart, Fort Wayne, Michigan, Illinois,” said Richard Aguirre, coordinator of the coalition.

They don't plan on stopping there.

Thursday people wrote letters to their local government and leaders in Elkhart County.

Amoung the many issues, they say they don't want a private company using tax dollars to imprison people. Members also say most of the undocumented immigrants being detained are not threats to society.

“No human being is illegal and the term illegal immigrant is extremely offensive and completely incorrect. They're undocumented immigrants they are not criminals and they are not illegal human beings,” said Rebecca Burton, activist.

Some suggest protesting the center by avoiding shopping in Elkhart County. The coalition wants as many people as possible to voice their concerns.

"They can talk to their commissioners, send them e-mails, send them letters, attend their public meetings and express their concerns and raise the questions that I think are speculating in this group and in the broader community," said Lisa Koop, Immigrations Attorney.

While it's a subject that hits close to home for some of these activists, the coalition thinks the pen is mightier than the sword.

"We believe if there is a continued ground swell of opposition this company will not want to locate in Elkhart County," said Aguirre.

Before any construction could even begin, the Elkhart County planning commission would have to approve it.

County commissioners would then have to give it the thumbs up. If that happens construction could begin this spring with it opening in 2020.

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