Broward News

Southwest Ranches and Private Prison Company Want Immigration Facility in Broward County

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is looking for somewhere in South Florida to be able to house as many as 2,000 alleged immigration-law offenders, and the town of Southwest Ranches has partnered with the private prison industry and entered a bid.

ICE has taken in three proposals for the new facility -- one from Southwest Ranches and Corrections Corporation of America, another from Florida City and the GEO Group, and the last being an unnamed city in Palm Beach County, likely not partnering with a private prison company.

According to documents filed with Broward County, Southwest Ranches' proposed facility would be placed off of Highway 27, toward the edge of the Everglades.

Here's how the Florida Independent described the proposed the facility in Southwest Ranches:

Many of the detainees would require lower levels of security and "dormitory"-style detention beds, meaning they are not expected to be dangerous criminals. Corrections Corporation documents describe a "casual atmosphere" that will allow for "detainee movement" and "general relaxation." The people detained in the facility would be able to watch television, do aerobics or play games like soccer, volleyball and dominoes (among other "enhanced indoor and outdoor recreational activities") while they wait for their deportation proceedings to unfold.
Southwest Ranches' filing with the county describes the facility as "non-penal in nature" and would promote a relaxed atmosphere.

"Staff would be instructed to behave in a manner that promotes less formality since the facility would enact fewer rules than is typical of a correctional facility," the filing says. "Staff would be available to answer questions, give direction and encourage morale."

Although Southwest Ranches has partnered with Corrections Corporation of America, the largest partnership corrections company in the country, it appears -- for now -- that Florida City has the edge, although ICE officials say they are considering all three locations.

The Independent got its hands on a letter documenting a meeting among a GEO executive, ICE, and Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace.

Already, the Miami-Dade County Commission has proposed transportation access to the new facility, while no such negotiation between Southwest Ranches and Broward County has been made public.

ICE officials say the department expects no further proposals than the three already received, and the decision will be made in around 120 days.

Officials say construction costs for a facility "might be" between $100 million and $200 million.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley