GOSHEN — A Candlelight Vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23, night in downtown Goshen to show support for immigrants and refugees and opposition to the proposed immigration detention center in Elkhart County. The gathering, which is being sponsored by the Coalition Against the Immigration Detention Center, will begin outside the Elkhart County Courthouse on the Main Street side in Goshen.
The event will give area residents the opportunity to hear words of encouragement, unity and perseverance and to learn how to support immigrants and defeat detention center proposal. Attendees also will enjoy hot chocolate, cookies and other seasonal treats.
On. Dec. 4, CoreCivic, one of the nation’s largest private prison owners, filed a rezoning application with the Elkhart County Department of Planning and Development for a proposed immigration detention facility. The request is scheduled to be considered at the Feb. 8 Elkhart County Plan Commission meeting. If a recommendation is made on Feb. 8, the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners will consider the application at its March. 19 meeting.
CoreCivic is seeking to build and own a $100 million facility of up to 1,400 beds that would be used by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement to house detainees for an average of 40 days. If approved, the Elkhart County facility would be open by 2020 and be the largest of four regional detention facilities the federal government is seeking to open within close proximity to Chicago, Detroit, St. Paul and Salt Lake City.
Even before the proposal was filed, substantial community opposition emerged as exemplified by a Nov. 18 rally outside the Elkhart County Courthouse that was attended by more than 300 people. Since then, a broad-based coalition of individuals, business owners, church pastor and members, educators, non-profit organizations and social justice advocates has united under the auspices of the new Coalition Against the Elkhart County Immigration Detention Center. On Dec. 14, the coalition sponsored an information-action meeting that was attended by 310 people at Concord Junior High School. The coalition’s Facebook group now has more than 3,400 members, many of whom have written emails and letters to county officials opposing the detention facility.