"Immigration detention has increasingly become the province of large private corporations making huge profits off of human misery," Tsao said. Thanas said the federal government's role in the partnership is one of several reasons the local member of Congress will have a role determining the outcome of the private facility.
"We'll make sure there is political support for the project," Thanas said. "And something like this that involves the federal government, I'm sure the congressional delegation in Will County will be asked for its opinion."
Will County, which sits southwest of Chicago and contains Joliet, encompasses several districts. But Joliet, the most likely spot, will only be represented by Biggert or Foster. Biggert has represented 48 percent of the 11th District since 1999. Foster used to represent about 26 percent of the new 11th District from 2008 until he was unseated in 2010. Thanas couldn't recall working on any specific project with Foster but Foster has been clearer about his stance on the issue. He voted for the DREAM Act, legislation that would have provided pathways to permanent residency for certain undocumented minors. And he has also been more vocal about the need for immigration reform, Tsao said.
At Monday's forum, Foster said: "For-profit incarceration is something that I am personally quite leery of. We have an immigration system that depends way too heavily on incarceration and deportation." Biggert voted against the DREAM Act and had a spokesperson read this comment addressing the issue at Monday's forum: "Congresswoman Biggert would strongly oppose the federal government coming in and mandating what Joliet should or should not do. It's really, ultimately, Joliet's decision."
But just like when officials attempted to place a detention facility in Crete, the area's congressional member will definitely weigh in. "The representative and both U.S. Senators would have quite a bit of say as far as whether this thing should procede, or if it does procede, what it all should look like," Tsao said. That could make the previously non-public proposal a last-minute factor in the Biggert-Foster race. Biggert has cruised to reelection in her current 13th District but a Democratic-controlled state Legislature redrew her area to open the door for a Democrat. The two have waged a particularly divisive campaign. Biggert dropped out of an AARP-sponsored debate, claiming the organization was not a neutral arbiter. Foster's campaign mockingly "live Tweeted" the debate.
"Certainly those people in the community who are concerned about this issue will be pretty motivated to come to the polls and vote for whichever candidate they believe would be more responsive to their concerns," Tsao said about the immigration issue.
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