On June 7, Southwest Ranches Town Attorney Keith Poliakoff sent an email to (now deceased) Town Administrator Charlie Lynn, town staffers, and his consulting and lobbying colleagues. The email urged town leaders to maintain a "cone of silence" about a proposed 1,800-bed immigrant detention center in Southwest Ranches to avoid growing public unrest.
"The sharks are beginning to circle," wrote Poliakoff, apparently referring to local opposition to the facility, which has grown in recent weeks despite the project's being in the works for more than a decade.
He wrote that "we should remain fully quiet" and that "if [Lynn] gets a ton of calls we will issue a carefully crafted press release, but until then, the less we say the better off we will be."
Read the complete email, and Poliakoff's comments, after the jump.
As you know we are in the final months to see if we can land the new Federal Immigration Facility. Florida City is flipping over all stones to try to take the lead, but their strategy with the press is actually backfiring since residents are now comming (sic) out in opposition to the Florida City proposal, which will inevitably cause Homeland Security to shy away from their site since they do not want controversy right now. Further an immigration facility in Dade will not get much fanfare.
As you probably have seen we have remained incredibly quiet and have been working diligently with our legislative leaders on this matter without pushing the press angle.
As such, I have been fully advised by our DC contacts that we should remain fully quiet on this one and to let our DC Leaders help without sparking a fire that will make it more difficult for them to assist.
Accordingly, if you get any calls on this, which you certainly will since the sharks are beginning to circle, I would appreciate it if you could direct anyone to speak to Charlie Lynn. If he gets a ton of calls we will issue a carefully crafted press release, but until then, the less we say the better off we will be.
I know Mayor Nelson fielded a few basic questions from the Sentinel, which should release a small story later today.
Reached by email for a response, Poliakoff repeated a point he had made in a council meeting, saying that "there is nothing new to provide/discuss at this point." He writes that "there has never been an attempt to keep the residents uninformed, rather, as my email suggested, the Town sought to create one point of contact to keep the residents informed as to the actual facts and not to conjecture."
He also says that any information that is released now and any further deliberations aren't strictly required. "In short, after being thoroughly vetted for over 14 years, CCA [private prison contractor Corrections Corporation of America, with which the town hopes to have a revenue-sharing plan] could pull a building permit to build this project tomorrow, as of right [now].
"Despite the fact that it could be built tomorrow," he continues, "the Town has respectfully requested a public meeting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whereby the Town hopes to create a forum whereby all residents can ask any additional questions they may have concerning this facility."
Also of note: Last night both CNBC and PBS Frontline aired documentaries about the large and increasingly controversial private prison industry. Frontline's "Lost in Detention" focuses on ICE's deportation process and some reported abuses at the Willacy ICE detention facility in Texas (now taken over by the bureau of prisons). It notes the expansion of privately run detention facilities (here's a map), including six planned new ones that are supposed to provide a "less prison-like" atmosphere for detainees waiting to be deported.
Will the next one be in Southwest Ranches? The people who live there are bound to find out sooner or later.