Community leaders weigh in on proposed immigrant detention cente - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Community leaders weigh in on proposed immigrant detention center

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

For the first time, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara is weighing in on a controversial proposed immigrant detention center.

13 News spoke with the mayor, who says this proposed center is a bad idea.

"I don't think that a detention center helps unify our city and I don't think you can put a price on that," McNamara (D) says.

The newly elected Mayor of Rockford says he thinks the plan could actually result in more crime.

"It has the potential to reduce relationships, which would reduce the number of calls to service, especially in our diverse communities in our city." 

Meanwhile, Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana says he has some facts that he wants to clear up.

"A lot of it's just informational propaganda and fear," Caruana (R) says. "I haven't heard one issue, rather than fear tactics, in this whole process, which concerns me." 

He says the idea that his officers are going to start rounding up undocumented people is false.

The sheriff also says the jail would only house undocumented immigrants who are violent offenders, and if the partnership with ICE doesn't work out, he says he will cancel it within the first 30 days or at the end of the first contract.

"I still have 30 days if it's just not working out," Caruana says. 

The center would go inside the Winnebago County Jail and potentially bring in millions of dollars the sheriff says are needed.

Some people in the community have questioned whether the sheriff actually needs board approval to bring the center to the jail.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney, who has not yet taken a stance on the center, says that is not true.

"What would happen if there's a recommendation by the sheriff? That's real simple, because it would be an agreement between government that would require board approval," Haney (R) says. 

Business leader and community advocate Rudy Valdez has come out against the center, saying that not only would the plan break up families and erode trust between the community and police, it also does not make sense financially. 

For anyone who wants their voice heard on this issue, there are two upcoming forums. 

The first forum is this Sunday at 1 p.m. at St. Edward's Catholic Church on 11th Street in Rockford. Sheriff Caruana, County Board Chairman Haney, State's Attorney Joe Bruscato and Rockford Police Chief Dan O'Shea will all be there. The event is hosted by the Coalition of Latino Leaders. 

Next Tuesday, another public forum will ask whether the jail should be used as an ICE detention center. That event starts at 6 p.m. at Emmanuel Episcopal Church on North Church Street. 

The public is invited to attend, and 13 News will have full coverage of both events.

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