In 2011, the Community Justice Project represented the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) in their campaign to keep private prison providers, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) from building a massive immigration detention center outside of Miami, FL.  CJP used environmental law theories to create the needed public debate so as to galvanize public opposition. The combination of these organizing and legal efforts culminated in a massive victory in June 2012 when ICE withdrew their plans for the prison.

2012 Campaign Video produced by Brave New Films featuring FLIC members and CJP Project Director Charles Elsesser


In 2011, ICE and CCA planned to build a massive immigration detention center in the Town of Southwest Ranches, just 30 minutes from Miami, FL. With 1,500 beds, this prison would have been one of the largest in the country. Immigration advocates opposed the expansion arguing that expanding costly immigration detention will only benefit for-profit companies while tearing more families apart. 

Immigrant rights’ advocates, residents and  environmentalists in South Florida voiced  strong opposition against this new facility. The neighboring City of Pembroke Pines, which surrounded the prison site, refused to provide water service to the site. 

After a long and heated fight in South Florida, ICE announced on June 15, 2012 that they were withdrawing their plans to construct additional detention facilities in South Florida. Immigrant advocates and immigrant families are claiming this as a victory against the mass incarceration of immigrants.  


Below is a statement from Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, our client in the grassroots campaign “CCA Go Away” 

“After one year of hearing our elected officials say this was a ‘done deal’, including Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, we always believed that anything was possible as long as we could get people together to unite their voices in opposition and to build power in their communities. All of us can and should stand up to powerful interests, including corporations and elected officials, who are not watching or representing the interests of those affected. There is no such thing as a ‘done deal’ when people unite and do everything they can to hold their leaders accountable.

This proposed immigration detention center was always wrong and unnecessary from any point of view. South Florida didn’t want more immigrant families being torn apart because of increased detentions and deportations; Broward residents didn’t want a massive prison near their homes; taxpayers couldn’t continue feeding the business of immigrant detention making companies like CCA increase its profits; and the Everglades couldn’t take more irresponsible urban development that threatened its stability.

We have witnessed the influence that for-profit prison companies have on our policies and legislators and we want them out of Florida all together. For-profit prison corporations are lobbying and promoting laws that deepen the crisis of mass incarceration of people of color in this country. To make it worse, private prison companies like CCA and the GEO Group have a long track record of cutting corners with the safety of detainees so they can make more money. The devastating results include wrongful deaths, riots, and sexual assaults; many of which get covered up. CCA is not a good neighbor.

The national expansion of detention for profit has met nationwide resistance and decisive victories for those who oppose it. Since 2011, the National Prison Divestment Campaign has been instrumental to get the United Methodist Church and Pershing Square to divest their shares in CCA and Geo Group and more institutions are sure to follow suit. This year, the largest prison privatization effort in the country failed in the Florida legislature. In April, Valdosta County, GA, shelved a CCA project. Just this week,Crete, IL, voted down another CCA immigration prison in this Chicago suburb. Today, South Floridians celebrate this as a victory of diverse sectors that came together to protect our community. The coalition that came together stood up to the worst of the 1% and won.

Costly immigrant detention that profits private corporations like CCA and the Geo Group on the backs of taxpayers is immoral, expensive, and unnecessary. ICE itself has hailed cheaper alternatives to detention to be just as effective and saves millions in taxpayer money. In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, ICE must stop its expansion of costly detention and the brutal separation of families.

This decision came on the same day as President Obama announced administrative relief for young immigrants, who were often unnecessarily incarcerated in private prisons such as the one CCA planned to build in South Florida.

Immigrants, and especially Latinos, finally feel that our voices are being heard. We have made it clear that we will not accept any profiteering from our pain and the separation of our families."