November 11, 2011 | 10:10am
Start inking up a big government contract with a for-profit company and you can bet your sweet tax dollars that things won't stay transparent for long.
Which gives a nice boost of high ground to the people who are already fed up with an all-but-inked plan to bring an ICE detention facility to Southwest Ranches, to be built by private prison contractor CCA. Now those activists, led by the Florida Immigrant Coalition FLIC, are saying the whole planning process has skirted the federal government's own environmental review requirements.
"If ICE doesn't provide the adequate studies... it will send a clear message: that the agency's priority is not to protect and serve the community, but to benefit the business of detention and the companies that profit from it," wrote FLIC's Kathy Bird in a news release.
At issue is the National Environmental Protection Act, which states that federal agencies must prepare extensive environmental-impact reviews "if significant impacts are likely."
Residents asked about reviews at a November 5 town-hall meeting
hosted by the office of Debbie Wasserman Schultz. There, CCA officials said they were not subject to that rule because they are a private entity. Executive VP Lucibeth Mayberry repeatedly stated that all necessary approval had been obtained. The mayor of Southwest Ranches, eager to get the facility built and the cash flowing in, also maintained that CCA could legally build the facility right away (although residents noted that it would need additional approval to meet ICE's exact requirements).
This is the latest in a number of tacks that opponents of the prison have tried in recent weeks. First was an immigration-centered protest
, and then residents begin filing records requests and looking into lobbying activity. At the November 5 meeting, vocal opposition from members of the Pembroke Pines commission led residents to rally around the idea of Pines rescinding its pledge of infrastructure support to the facility. Southwest Ranches attorney Keith Poliakoff says that wouldn't make a difference to the project's feasibility.
Now, opponents hope that an environmental review could stop the project or at least buy time. Below is the letter they sent to the Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, on Tuesday:
Stefan Kamph is a New Times staff writer.
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