Many residents of Elkhart County, In., which backed Donald Trump for president, oppose plans for a federal detention center there for alleged illegal immigrants, the Associated Press reports. Since 2011, contractors have proposed detention centers in seven communities near Chicago, with activists blocking several. Demand has increased as the Trump administration steps up arrests. Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t own most of those facilities, instead contracting with companies whose for-profit lockups hold two-thirds of immigrant detainees; others are held in local jails.
Last fall, ICE requested new detention sites. CoreCivic Inc., one of the largest private prison companies, proposed Elkhart, two hours east of Chicago and the hub of the booming recreational vehicle industry. With 9,000 local job openings, immigrants have helped fill the gap. County Commissioner Mike Yoder sought support in a meeting with Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman, immigration activist Richard Aguirre and others. “I’d really like your help communicating calmness,” the commissioner said. “My reaction was, ‘No way!'” said Aguirre, a Goshen College administrator. At a pre-Thanksgiving rally, attorney Felipe Merino told the crowd, “I want you to raise your hands if you believe that we do not want an immigration detention facility in Elkhart County, Indiana!” “No!” they shouted. Many immigrants were apprehensive. When 19-year-old Lizeth Ochoa first heard about the detention center, she imagined a lockup filled with criminals. “Then I realized, oh, it’s for people like me,” said Ochoa.