- Associated Press - Thursday, November 12, 2015

GARY, Ind. (AP) - Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says she is withdrawing her support to build an immigrant detention center in the northwest Indiana city.

Freeman-Wilson said in a statement late Wednesday that she initially signaled support for the facility because it would increase Gary’s tax base and add jobs. But she said she couldn’t align her support with her experiences.

“Whether it is my experience as an advocate for civil and human rights, my long history as a proponent of criminal justice reform, or even a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama’s immigration reform policy, I could not align my record with my support of this project,” Freeman-Wilson said.

The GEO Group Inc. has proposed building the detention center near the Gary/Chicago International Airport and is seeking a zoning variance. The company said the investment would be worth $65 million and create possibly more than 200 jobs. The city has estimated it could draw $1 million in property taxes annually from the facility.

Freeman-Wilson wrote that attracting development to Gary has been a “herculean task,” but that officials have “experienced successes and anticipate many more.”

The mayor’s statement came after two days of protest against the plan at airport and zoning board meetings, The (Munster) Times (https://bit.ly/1PEitwf ) reports. Protesters included members of the Northwest Indiana Federation and Black Lives Matter NWI-Gary.

GEO Group would also have to win a contract by responding to a request for proposals expected from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The airport hosts weekly charter flights operated by ICE, taking immigrants to the U.S.-Mexico border for deportation.

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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