It's been an eventful few months for the Southwest Ranches and Pines residents who decided they didn't want a prison going up in their neighborhood. An immigration-centered protest in September led to an angry town hall meeting in November, and we're sure the Southwest Ranches town council is tired of trying to tell people that they bought the prison when they bought their houses, and now they should live with it.
The most silent players on the issue -- besides CCA, which is quietly working to get the papers signed with what we imagine must be extreme corporate efficiency -- have been the congressional reps who signed a letter endorsing the facility, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Senator Bill Nelson.
Now the local activists are planning a "holiday jubilee" in front of Wasserman Schultz's office in Pembroke Pines -- and they say they'll give her a "special gift."
The letter she signed was written by well-paid Ranches Town Attorney Keith Poliakoff, who had urged silence on the issue toward constituents but was working to secure needed endorsements from congresspeople to forward on to ICE in Washington as they mulled where to put their new facility. Evidently, the letters worked, as ICE announced it had tentatively chosen the Ranches site.
Meanwhile, former interim Senator George LeMieux, a Republican, is running in 2012 for Nelson's seat.
You might think a Republican lawyer would be gung-ho on a facility to help in our country's war on illegal immigration -- but actually, he's taking Nelson to town for endorsing the facility against the protests of some local residents.
"The people are incredibly unhappy about it, and Bill is ignoring them," says LeMieux's campaign spokeswoman, Anna Nix. As for the necessary square footage required by immigration policy? "Prisons of any type do not belong in bedroom communities," she says.
Of course, the hinterlands that would become Southwest Ranches had a lot fewer bedrooms when CCA bought the land back in the 90s. It helps that LeMieux's parents live in Southwest Ranches, as Nix notes. The fight is close to home.
Anyway, the highly sarcastic Christmas cheer will be going down in front of Debbie's office tomorrow, Tuesday, from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
We'll have more in-depth coverage, and a roundup of the prison story, coming in January. Feliz Navidad!
Stefan Kamph is a New Times staff writer.
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