That's the argument made by GEO, the largest provider of corrections and mental health facilities in the world, in support a self-contained detention center for 2,200 immigrants facing deportation. Because of its proximity to New York, Newark and Philadelphia, the slate belt is considered an ideal location. A privately run facility will produce 350 local construction jobs and another 500 detention jobs for people facing deportation. But at Northampton County Council's November 4 meeting, the ACLU's Emma Cleveland cautioned against any private facility for immigrants.
Council President Ron Angle told Cleveland that "we have no say here, whatsoever, as to whether that detention center goes in Upper Mount Bethel Township."
But Cleveland told Angle that County Council had already submitted a proposal for a detention center, "so you have taken a position." Angle acknowledged that the County has laid the groundwork to act as an intermediary for such a facility, similar to what exists in other Counties, but takes no position endorsing a specific location or proposal.
"The ACLU of Pennsylvania has taken a position in opposition to a private immigrant detention center because we're concerned about the large amount of civil rights abuses," said Cleveland. She added that civil rights abuses, including rape and murder, occur with greater frequency at privately run facilities.
She also complained that there wold be no immigration courts in these facilities, but Angle corrected her, stating that GEO had advised there would be courts.
"I'm curious how you all know this because the public does not know this, and I'm a member of the public," argued Cleveland. "Actually, it was discussed at the public meeting," answered Council Solicitor Phil Lauer. "They referred to two courtrooms."
Cleveland also complained that private facilities are under no obligation to respond to Freedom of Information or Right to Know requests.
"Whether you committed a crime by crossing the border, it's actually an administrative violation, you still shouldn't be raped and you should have that information."
In response to questioning from Council member Lamont McClure, Cleveland listed murders, suicides and riots at GEO facilities. "They do not have a good track record. The federal government does a better job."
GEO has submitted no formal proposal to any municipality, but will conduct an open forum about a potential slate belt detention center at Bangor Area Middle School on November 10, 6 PM.