Oh, what fun it must be to be a congressional representative, traveling your home territory in search of causes to support, being bombarded at every turn by lobbyists and carefully crafted P.R. Balancing pork-barrel people-pleasers with national security interests (and those of your campaign donors).
In the case of the new private immigrant detention facility that's been "fast-tracked" to go up in an ugly corner of Southwest Ranches, contractor CCA and the town wanted a lot of congressional support.
Below, we see how they found a willing ally in Sen. Marco Rubio, carefully choreographed their courtship of Allen West, and got Debbie Wasserman Schultz to sign a letter of support written by Sen. Bill Nelson's office.
The emails tell the tale. Residents who oppose the prison have begun posting on Facebook the fruits of their public-records requests
. (More to come in our continued attention to this story.)
First off, in late January, just after pushing through an amendment to double the planned size of the facility, Southwest Ranches and CCA reps prepared for a February 9 meeting with ICE officials. They already had the support of Rubio -- who offered to come to the meeting as a booster.
But his presence might have attracted unwanted attention to the matters at hand.
CCA's attorney, Sam Poole, sent Southwest Ranches Attorney Keith Poliakoff a word of caution. "CCA is greatly concerned that having a U.S. Senator attend the February 9 meeting with ICE staff would call external attention to the meeting and create a level of discomfort among the reviewers..." Full email below; click to enlarge.
So that happened, but a month later the planners had to meet with Allen West, who represents the nearby 22nd congressional district.
Below, in preparation for the meeting, the high-ranking CCA executive Lucibeth Mayberry gives instructions for the presentation, including suggestions for Southwest Ranches Mayor Jeff Nelson. We should note, the highlights in the email below were done by the resident who requested the email and opposes the project.
Note that it was Nelson's job to explain why "the community views the prison as a good fit for that location." While the prison might in fact benefit residents by bringing in a long-expected revenue stream, it's been apparent that a portion of Nelson's constituents wouldn't agree with this statement. The project, as the mayor often notes, has been in the works for over a decade... but the current "fast tracking" began after ICE's approval of the site this year.
Then, finally, there's the matter of the local congressional representative, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who co-signed a letter of support for the facility along with Sen. Bill Nelson. In the months to follow, she would write to Nelson decrying the "paucity of information" provided to residents and host a contentious town-hall meeting between residents and pro-prison officials.
But that letter of support didn't start in her office. In fact, in this email sent on April 1, Nelson's office sends
CCA attorney Sam Poole Becker & Poliakoff lobbyist Omar Franco a draft of the letter. In a preface, Nelson staffer Jenny Solomon mentions Coby Dolan, Wasserman Schultz's legislative director.
"Feel free to share with Coby if his boss [Wasserman Schultz] wants to join," she wrote.
Eventually, his boss would sign the letter.
Stefan Kamph is a
New Times staff writer.
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