Opposition grows to detention center in Southwest Ranches

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Opposition grows to detention center in Southwest Ranches

Residents worried site may bring crime, traffic, decreased home values

By Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel

4:09 PM EDT, July 15, 2011


Residents opposed to an immigration detention center that may be coming to Southwest Ranches plan to hold a protest rally Saturday afternoon.

Worried about crime and traffic, they say they are considering a lawsuit to block the center from being built.

The protest begins at 2 p.m. at Sawgrass Community Church at 17950 Griffin Road. An attorney will be there to discuss possible legal options, said resident Susan Chaoui, who helped organize the protest.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has tentatively chosen Southwest Ranches as the site for a detention center with up to 1,800 beds, one of the country’s largest. A decision is expected in the next few months.

The center would house foreign nationals facing deportation and will be much larger than the 581-bed Krome Detention Center in west Miami-Dade County.

“We are supposed to be a rural equestrian community, not a backyard for an immigration center,” said Chaoui, who moved to Southwest Ranches 12 years ago. “We are worried about the value of our homes and what’s it going to do to the image of our town and the safety of our residents.”

The center is slated for land bordering Pembroke Pines near U.S. Highway 27, just west of Southwest 196 Avenue between Sheridan Street and Stirling Road. It will cost an estimated $100 million to $200 million to build.

A final decision is expected within 120 days, ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias said.

In a phone survey of 250 Southwest Ranches residents, 89 percent of those polled oppose the center, said officials with the Florida Immigrant Coalition in Miami.

The advocacy group objects to the federal government building more centers to detain undocumented immigrants. Instead, the U.S. government should find ways to legalize their status, the group says.

“When we say we don’t need more beds it’s because there are people being detained today who don’t need to be detained,” said Tania Galloni, an attorney with the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami. “Detention is punitive and harmful. The last thing we need is more beds.”

Town officials back the project, saying it would create jobs and help the region’s economy as well as the town’s bottom line.

Some Pembroke Pines residents are also upset over the possibility of a detention center being built nearby.

“This makes me want to move,” said Ryann Greenberg, a Pembroke Pines mother whose home is near the proposed site.

Greenberg said she has received emails from neighbors saying the center will house violent criminals and sexual predators.

The center will include a full range of detainees, with beds for criminals convicted of sex crimes, murder and other serious crimes, ICE officials say. The facility will also house immigrants who have not been convicted of crimes.

sbryan@tribune.com or 954-356-4554

Copyright © 2011, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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