SOUTHWEST RANCHES (CBS4) – Hundreds of people packed a regional library Saturday to protest a controversial plan to build an immigration detention center planned for Southwest Ranches.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, Corrections Corporation of America officials and resident met Saturday at Southwest Regional Library to discuss the plan.
Residents' anger quickly boiled over, but their fury does not appear to be slowing down the plan. Roughly 300 people attended the meeting, mostly residents from Southwest Ranches and Pembroke Pines, which is very close to the site.
Gary Mead, of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement explained why they selected the spot.
"It's a good location in terms of where our field offices are, good location in terms of where the immigration judges are," he said. "Good location in terms of transportation."
But for opponents there's nothing good about it. Residents shouted out during the meeting accusing the Southwest Ranches Mayor of failing to represent them.
They are also furious because they said they did not know about the plans until it reached they point where it was set in stone.
The proposed site along 196th Avenue near Sheridan would be the largest immigration facility in America.
While Southwest Ranches has always held onto it's rural roots it's clear a political mess unfolding around the 1500 hundred bed immigration processing center, or prison, depending on how you look at it.
"It's going to be in the area right next to those trees. Right next to the Broward Correctional Facility," Ryann Greenberg points out as we stand next to wasteland of the county landfill. CBS4's David Sutta asks her if it's close to her home. "Yeah, it's four tenths of a mile."
Greenberg, a mother of two, is worried about the impact the facility would have own her quiet neighborhood. It's driven her to the point she has collected a thousand petitions against it.
We are just bringing Krome up to this area and that's just not acceptable and it shouldn't be acceptable to anybody else," Greenberg said.
It certainly isn't to the Florida Immigration Coalition.
"We think that if 1500 beds are added this is only going to double or triple immigrations ability to continue destroying our community," said FLIC organizer Cathy Bird.
Bird is not only angry of what the facility would stand for but Southwest Ranches appearance of hiding it.
Emails from the town attorney to council actually tells them to "remain fully quiet on this one."
"This is not a legal cone of silence. This is instructions from lawyers to keep everything quiet until everything is done," Bird contended.
Southwest Ranches Mayor disagreed
"We complied," said Mayor Jeff Nelson. "Whether you want to say cone of silence or forward all questions that's what we did."
Mayor Nelson explained the company that would own and operate the prison, CCA, instructed them to stay quiet the last 8 months. But he showed us a list of 30 dates where the prison plans were publicized and discussed dating back to 2001.
According to Nelson, agreements inked in 2005 with the town make it a done deal.
"They could pull the permit tomorrow and build because they have the right to do that," Nelson said.
Bird on the other hand believed quite differently.
"This is not a done deal. It's far from it," argued Bird. "We are following every step of the way and we are going to stop it wherever we can."
After spend a few days this week in Washington D.C. discussing the matter with Homeland Security Mayor Nelson says he feels confident that they are going to build the facility in the town of Southwest Ranches.
Regardless of who's right a lot of money is on the line. Jobs, property taxes and a kickback.
According to the contract, Southwest Ranches would collect four percent of whatever the prison makes.
"That's not enough to sacrifice our town," Greenberg said.
At Saturday's meeting, project managers made it clear that the site is final, and they are now in the design phase of the project. They estimate completing the project in the next two years.
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