ICIRR Applauds Gary Council Rejection of GEO Immigration Prison

May 4, 2016

ICIRR Applauds Gary Council Rejection of GEO Immigration Prison

This evening, the Common Council of Gary, Indiana, voted unanimously to reject a set of zoning variances that would have enabled the GEO Group, a multi­billion dollar private prison corporation, to build an immigration prison near the Gary Airport. The following is the statement of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights


The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) applauds the Gary Common Council for voting to stop GEO’s attempt to build an immigration prison in that city. We are happy that the council members considered the devastating impact that the prison would have for the city’s economic development, and the horrendous record of GEO in mismanaging facilities, abusing detainees and staff members, and neglecting host communities.

ICIRR congratulates the broad array of local leaders whose coordinated and determined work to talk with neighbors, get out the facts, and mobilize opposition made this victory possible, including Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations, Black Lives Matter ­Gary Northwest Indiana, the Baptist Ministers Conference of Gary & Vicinity, 219MIGHT, and Concerned Citizens of Gary.  We also thank former mayor Richard Hatcher, Catholic Bishop Donald Hying, former Lake County sheriff Roy Dominguez, and Gary Airport Authority board chair Stephen Mays., and the many others who spoke out against the prison. Other allies, including the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, Detention Watch Network,  the Private Corrections Working Group, CIVIC, and Grassroots Leadership all provided crucial support to this effort. Special thanks go out to Council Members Ragen Hatcher and LaVetta Sparks-Wade for their leadership on the council, particularly in light of questionable maneuvers during council proceedings.

Tonight’s vote is the latest round in the fight to block private immigration prisons in the Chicago area. Gary leaders defeated GEO’s previous attempt to win approval for the airport site in November 2015. Residents in Hobart, Indiana, have in effect blocked GEO in that community, though GEO still owns property there. Leaders in Crete and Joliet, Illinois, defeated attempts by the Corrections Corporation of America to build in those communities in 2012 and 2013. ICIRR worked with all of these campaigns, and will continue to support efforts to stop the criminalization and detention of immigrants. 

With the tide turning against private prisons and immigration detention and some presidential candidates vowing to end private immigration prisons, ICIRR will continue to push for policies that will instead respect the dignity and contributions of immigrants and work toward our full integration into this country.