Gary officials reject immigrant detention center

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GEO Group failed in its attempt to rezone some property near the Gary airport so it could use the land to build an immigrant detention and processing facility. | Google Streetview

GARY, Ind. — City leaders in Gary have voted against allowing an $80 million immigration detention center to be built in the northwestern Indiana city.

The unanimous vote taken Wednesday night denies a request for variances on property that GEO Group Inc., a large multinational operator of prisons and detention facilities, wanted to use for the proposed 788-bed detention center.

GEO Group promised to contribute to the Gary Economic Development Center, a private non-profit organization that supports the city’s economic endeavors, which made it somewhat difficult for the council members to reject the proposal.

The Florida-based company said the center would have created hundreds of jobs and generated $1 million in tax revenue. But opponents argued that the jobs would have high turnover and employees would come from outside the area.

A coalition of groups opposed to the detention center held a rally prior to the meeting Wednesday, hoping to persuade the council to reject the zoning variance. The groups, which include Black Lives Matter, the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations and the Indiana branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens, earlier wrote an open letter, saying “GEO is bad for Gary.”

GEO Group, which owns similar detention facilities across the nation, has been criticized by human rights supporters and the American Civil Liberties Union over its treatment of immigrants.

Company officials have defended the operation of their facilities. They contend that the facilities undergo annual inspections by agencies, including the government, and attract other companies to the areas around them.

GEO Group owns a 40-acre site in Hobart, where it also faces opposition from residents and officials.

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