ICE quest for detention sites puts Trump county on tightrope

 
 
Posted7/30/2018 7:00 AM
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  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-An Amish family rides their horse and buggy past a storage lot for recreational vehicles in Goshen, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. In the county that voted nearly two-thirds for Donald Trump, a grass-roots campaign by local residents voiced enough opposition to scuttle the building of an immigration detention center nearby.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-An Amish family rides their horse and buggy past a storage lot for recreational vehicles in Goshen, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. In the county that voted nearly two-thirds for Donald Trump, a grass-roots campaign by local residents voiced enough opposition to scuttle the building of an immigration detention center nearby. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Pepe Urzua, a roofer who arrived from Mexico eight years ago, cradles his two-month-old daughter, Luna, as his wife, Betty, holds their daughter, Scarlet, during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on June 1, 2018. "It's a place where you want to raise your kids." Urzua said. But his wife, who came to the U.S. when she was two, said opposition to the proposed ICE facility does not mean immigrants are accepted. "I've seen a lot of people with Trump stickers on their trucks. They're a lot of people here who don't like us," she said.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Pepe Urzua, a roofer who arrived from Mexico eight years ago, cradles his two-month-old daughter, Luna, as his wife, Betty, holds their daughter, Scarlet, during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on June 1, 2018. "It's a place where you want to raise your kids." Urzua said. But his wife, who came to the U.S. when she was two, said opposition to the proposed ICE facility does not mean immigrants are accepted. "I've seen a lot of people with Trump stickers on their trucks. They're a lot of people here who don't like us," she said. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Residents of Goshen, Ind., in Elkhart County listen to a band on the lawn of the county courthouse during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, on June 1, 2018. Participants in the monthly gathering represent the diversity of the county.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Residents of Goshen, Ind., in Elkhart County listen to a band on the lawn of the county courthouse during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, on June 1, 2018. Participants in the monthly gathering represent the diversity of the county. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-The logo of President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign fades on a barn in Elkhart County, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. In the county that voted nearly two-thirds for Donald Trump, a grass-roots campaign by local residents voiced enough opposition to scuttle the building of an immigration detention center nearby.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-The logo of President Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign fades on a barn in Elkhart County, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. In the county that voted nearly two-thirds for Donald Trump, a grass-roots campaign by local residents voiced enough opposition to scuttle the building of an immigration detention center nearby. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Elkhart County, Ind., commissioner and dairy farmer Mike Yoder smiles as one of his cows nibbles his elbow in Middlebury, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. As a Republican, he had paid close attention when nearly two-thirds of Elkhart County’s voters backed Donald Trump for president after a campaign in which he lambasted immigrants. He knew just as well that the more liberal county seat and the largest local employers had made a place for thousands of immigrants from Mexico _ a significant, but uncertain, number of them in the U.S. illegally. "It was like a microcosm of all the different issues of immigration,” Yoder said, “right here in this county."

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Elkhart County, Ind., commissioner and dairy farmer Mike Yoder smiles as one of his cows nibbles his elbow in Middlebury, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. As a Republican, he had paid close attention when nearly two-thirds of Elkhart County’s voters backed Donald Trump for president after a campaign in which he lambasted immigrants. He knew just as well that the more liberal county seat and the largest local employers had made a place for thousands of immigrants from Mexico _ a significant, but uncertain, number of them in the U.S. illegally. "It was like a microcosm of all the different issues of immigration,” Yoder said, “right here in this county." Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Elkhart County, Ind. commissioner and dairy farmer Mike Yoder, speaks at his farm in Middlebury, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. He recalled tensions stirred by a proposal to build an immigration detention center in his community, where nearly two-thirds of voters backed Donald Trump for president even as local employers made a place for thousands of immigrant workers.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Elkhart County, Ind. commissioner and dairy farmer Mike Yoder, speaks at his farm in Middlebury, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. He recalled tensions stirred by a proposal to build an immigration detention center in his community, where nearly two-thirds of voters backed Donald Trump for president even as local employers made a place for thousands of immigrant workers. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Bob Schrameyer stands next to his truck decorated with a "Build The Wall - Vote Trump" sticker in Goshen, Ind., on Thursday, May 31, 2018. A decade ago, Schrameyer and fellow Goshen residents lobbied police to partner with ICE, and pushed employers to vet workers’ legal status. The problem, Schrameyer contends, is that many immigrants don’t pay their fair share of taxes, while collecting welfare benefits.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Bob Schrameyer stands next to his truck decorated with a "Build The Wall - Vote Trump" sticker in Goshen, Ind., on Thursday, May 31, 2018. A decade ago, Schrameyer and fellow Goshen residents lobbied police to partner with ICE, and pushed employers to vet workers’ legal status. The problem, Schrameyer contends, is that many immigrants don’t pay their fair share of taxes, while collecting welfare benefits. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Goshen College student and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals participant Lizeth Ochoa, 19, poses for a portrait at the Goshen, Ind., campus on Friday, June 1, 2018. Ochoa was 9-months old when her mother paid a smuggler to bring her across the U.S.-Mexico border, where she joined her father and uncles who had landed jobs in Elkhart, Ind., factories. When Ochoa first heard about the proposed detention center, she imagined a lockup filled with criminals. "But then I realized, oh, it's for people like me," Ochoa said.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Goshen College student and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals participant Lizeth Ochoa, 19, poses for a portrait at the Goshen, Ind., campus on Friday, June 1, 2018. Ochoa was 9-months old when her mother paid a smuggler to bring her across the U.S.-Mexico border, where she joined her father and uncles who had landed jobs in Elkhart, Ind., factories. When Ochoa first heard about the proposed detention center, she imagined a lockup filled with criminals. "But then I realized, oh, it's for people like me," Ochoa said. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Pastors Jose Luis Gutierrez, left, from the Comunidad Cristiana Adulam church and Neil Amstutz from the Waterford Mennonite Church, pose for a portrait at Gutierrez's church on Friday, June 1, 2018. In late 2017, they invited clergy from around the county to Adulam and the group made plans for a community-wide service to oppose the immigration detention center.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Pastors Jose Luis Gutierrez, left, from the Comunidad Cristiana Adulam church and Neil Amstutz from the Waterford Mennonite Church, pose for a portrait at Gutierrez's church on Friday, June 1, 2018. In late 2017, they invited clergy from around the county to Adulam and the group made plans for a community-wide service to oppose the immigration detention center. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-A woman carries multicolored balloons that she gave away to kids during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. Attendance at the gathering reflects the county's growing racial and ethnic diversity.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-A woman carries multicolored balloons that she gave away to kids during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on Friday, June 1, 2018. Attendance at the gathering reflects the county's growing racial and ethnic diversity. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Children play on the grounds of the Elkhart County, Indiana Courthouse during the monthly First Fridays street festival on June 1, 2018. Attendance at the street festival reflects the county's growing racial and ethnic diversity.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Children play on the grounds of the Elkhart County, Indiana Courthouse during the monthly First Fridays street festival on June 1, 2018. Attendance at the street festival reflects the county's growing racial and ethnic diversity. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-A woman is silhouetted in smoke as she sells barbecue during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on June 1, 2018. Participants in the monthly street festival represent the diversity of the county.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-A woman is silhouetted in smoke as she sells barbecue during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on June 1, 2018. Participants in the monthly street festival represent the diversity of the county. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-The lead guitarist from a local latino band leads a conga-style line of couples during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on June 1, 2018. Participants in the monthly gathering represent the diversity of the county.

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-The lead guitarist from a local latino band leads a conga-style line of couples during the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on June 1, 2018. Participants in the monthly gathering represent the diversity of the county. Associated Press

  • ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Rob Emahiser, a salesman for a tire manufacturer and self proclaimed "Trump-loving Republican" attends the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on June 1, 2018. Emahiser raised his beer to the tax cut Trump signed into law. Then he praised Latino co-workers and neighbors for working hard and taking care of their families, pointing out that sometimes he and the president would have to disagree. "They wanted to build a detention center in this town," he said. "That's just not who we are."

    ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, JULY 30, 2018 AND THEREAFTER-Rob Emahiser, a salesman for a tire manufacturer and self proclaimed "Trump-loving Republican" attends the First Fridays street festival in Goshen, Ind., on June 1, 2018. Emahiser raised his beer to the tax cut Trump signed into law. Then he praised Latino co-workers and neighbors for working hard and taking care of their families, pointing out that sometimes he and the president would have to disagree. "They wanted to build a detention center in this town," he said. "That's just not who we are." Associated Press

GOSHEN, Indiana -- The sermon had been preached, the last prayers offered. Now, Mike Yoder decided, the time had come to share unsettling news.

As congregants at Silverwood Mennonite Church chatted around a potluck spread, Yoder, a Republican county commissioner, huddled with Pastor Jeremy Shue. There was a good chance, Yoder confided, that a 1,200-bed immigration detention center would soon rise north of town.

"One of the only positives is that it would be less of a drive to protest," Shue said.

Yoder had paid attention when Elkhart County voters backed Donald Trump for president after a campaign lambasting immigrants. He knew, too, that the county seat and the largest employers had made a place for thousands of immigrants, a number in the U.S. illegally.

The detention center proposal was "a microcosm of all the different issues of immigration, right here in this county," he said.

Since 2011, contractors have proposed detention centers in seven communities near Chicago, with activists pushing a number to defeat. But demand has increased as the Trump administration steps up arrests .

Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn't own most of those facilities, instead contracting with companies whose for-profit lockups hold two-thirds of immigrant detainees; others are held in local jails.

Last fall, ICE requested new detention sites. CoreCivic Inc., one of the largest private prison companies, proposed Elkhart, two hours east of Chicago and the hub of the booming recreational vehicle industry. With 9,000 local job openings, immigrants have helped fill the gap.

Yoder recognized some residents would object to a detention center. But new jobs and taxes would make it hard to reject. Many Republican voters would back it.

If a facility was likely, Yoder told Mennonite pastors, maybe it would be best to have it where clergy could minister to detainees.

He also was mindful of the growing Latino population, about 16 percent countywide and twice that in Goshen.

So the same day he spoke to clergy, Yoder met with Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman, immigration activist Richard Aguirre and others.

"I'd really like your help communicating calmness," the commissioner said.

"My reaction was, 'No way!'" said Aguirre, a Goshen College administrator.

Aguirre recast a pre-Thanksgiving rally, planned to celebrate new ID cards for immigrants, as a protest.

"I want you to raise your hands if you believe that we do not want an immigration detention facility in Elkhart County, Indiana!" attorney Felipe Merino urged the crowd.

"No!" they shouted.

On Dec. 17, worshippers from many congregations filled an Elkhart church.

"Whether or not our government builds a bigger wall to keep immigrants out, God's church is about breaking down dividing walls," preached Neil Amstutz, pastor of Waterford Mennonite Church.

But many immigrants were apprehensive.

When 19-year-old Lizeth Ochoa first heard about the detention center, she imagined a lockup filled with criminals.

"Then I realized, oh, it's for people like me," said Ochoa.

When Ochoa was 9 months old, her mother paid a smuggler to spirit them from Mexico. They joined her father, who had found work in Elkhart.

President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative had eased worries about deportation, but Trump was pulling the plug. Ochoa and her parents avoided talk of the detention center. But quietly, she considered what they would do if ICE officers knocked on their door.

To others, though, a detention center was just what the county needed.

A decade ago, Bob Schrameyer and fellow Goshen residents lobbied police to partner with ICE and pushed employers to vet workers' legal status. The problem, Schrameyer contends, is that many immigrants don't pay their share of taxes, while collecting welfare benefits.

The detention center "was a no-brainer," Schrameyer said.

"We have a Constitution founded on the principles of God, and a lot of them, the illegals, they don't have that," said Roland Weaver, who lives near the project site. "That's what waters down what this country was founded on."

At a holiday gathering, Mayor Stutsman talked with retired cardiologist Mark Smucker and poultry company owner Galen Miller.

"The argument I made was if we ever solve our problems with immigration in this country ... at some point we aren't going to need an immigration detention center," Smucker said. "It seemed to me that the people in the RV manufacturing community would not like to see even more of their workers drift away."

Stutsman, a Democrat, proposed a letter of opposition. Miller agreed to reach out to RV executives. Many are conservative but count on immigrant workers, some in the U.S. illegally, said Jim Siegmann, former owner of a printing company.

"They know they couldn't run their businesses without them," he said.

On Jan. 17, CoreCivic officials met with executives from RV companies and other big employers. Local executives declined to comment or did not respond to calls or emails. But people who attended or spoke with those who did said they were very direct.

"I do business here. I've been here my whole life, and I don't want you to come here," Forest River Inc. CEO Peter Liegl is said to have told the visitors.

The next day, Stutsman released his letter: "Any tax dollars generated by the project wouldn't be enough to offset the long-lasting damage such a facility would do to our county."

Yoder counseled CoreCivic to think things over.

"After careful consideration," a company official wrote, "CoreCivic has decided to withdraw its application."

"We won!" Aguirre posted on Facebook. "We won!"

___

Geller can be reached at ageller@ap.org or at https://twitter.com/AdGeller

Read more of AP's coverage of the reverberations of the Trump administration's policies on immigration here .

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