Today's Chicago Tribune has a story about the fight in Gary, Indiana over a new immigrant detention center proposed by private prison corporation GEO Group. The new for-profit prison is heavily opposed by local immigrant rights groups, Black Lives Matters protesters, and members of the faith community. According to the Tribune:
"The city of Gary has become ground zero in the immigration rights debate as its leaders ponder whether to welcome a for-profit company that wants to build an $80 million detention center for federal detainees or send it packing.
GEO first announced plans for Gary late last year, but withdrew its zoning application when it was blindsided by opposition. Now, it's trying again.
"Clearly, we did not have community support on the project … so we withdrew," said David Venturella, a GEO senior vice president. "We re-thinked the strategy and we wanted to quickly begin community outreach so we can tell people what the project is and its benefits and dispel misconceptions."
But who is David Venturella, GEO's spokesperson in the story?
Before joining GEO's executive team, Venturella was a top official at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the same agency that would be contracting for the new detention center in Gary.
Venturella's emails were highlighted in a USA Today article from 2013 that showed ICE's effort to increase the number of deportations through aggressive enforcement mechanisms. Internal emails at the agency showed that ICE agents "were trolling state driver's license records for information about foreign-born applicants, dispatching U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to traffic safety checkpoints conducted by police departments, and processing more illegal immigrants who had been booked into jails for low-level offenses."
Back in 2013, we speculated that GEO would use Venturella's connections at ICE to try to win federal immigration contracts. It appears we were right. But Gary residents should know the track record of the man behind this "community outreach" effort.