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Crowd weighs in on potential Pine Island ICE facility

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Barb Stussey, of Zumbrota, on Tuesday asks the Pine Island City Council to rescind its resolution telling Management & Training Corp. the city would like to be considered for a potential Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility.
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PINE ISLAND — The Pine Island City Council listened Tuesday as more than a dozen individuals spoke — mostly against — about a potential ICE detention facility to be built in the city.

Last month, the council approved a resolution telling Management & Training Corp., a company that might build a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, that it would like to remain in contention for the new detention center if and when it is built.

Julie Baska, who has lived in Pine Island since 2005, said she was there to speak against the proposed detention center and ask the city council to rescind Resolution 18-60, which was passed to let MTC know the city wanted to remain in the running for the facility.

Baska said the residents of Pine Island are not interested in the project no matter how it might impact the city economically. "It reeks of desperation of Elk Run," she said. The facility likely would be located at the Tower Investments-owned development on the east side of U.S. Highway 52. "We are a bedroom community next to a city on the verge of doubling in the next 25 years. Development will come."

Baska was one of 11 individuals who spoke against the project, nearly half of whom were not Pine Island residents. Two individuals — one a new Pine Island resident and one a longtime resident of Pine Island Township —– spoke in favor of the resolution passed in June by the city council.

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Longtime Pine Island resident Willie Rauen said he did not think the people of Pine Island would want to be part of "such an asinine venture."

"It just blows my mind where we want to put our morals aside for a business venture," he said. "We’d blatantly ignore the plight of these people to make a few bucks."

An immigrant and citizen, Jazmin Quintana told the city council she’d seen how families have suffered under the current immigration policies. "I’m asking you with my heart just to listen to your heart," she said. "I am sure you know in your heart what is right and what is wrong."

While most asked the council to reverse its course and tell MTC the city does not want an ICE facility built, Pine Island Mayor Rod Steele said the city just wants to keep its options open, and an ICE facility is still a long way from happening in Southeast Minnesota.

That sentiment was backed by Issa Arnita, director of corporate communications for MTC, who said while all three cities being considered for a new facility have passed resolutions saying the communities want to keep their options open, there currently are no specific plans and no funding set aside for such a facility.

"Even though they passed a resolution, all three communities will closely review the project again if/when ICE issues a request for proposal," Arnita said in an email. "Right now, ICE has only issued a request for information, so it’s at a very early stage. We have identified Pine Island as a possible location, however, we are not providing additional comment unless/until ICE determines it’s interested in pursuing our proposal."

Township resident Harold Radtke said the facility would be used not just for people who cross the border illegally, but for people who overstay their visas or commit felonies while in the country illegally. "I say let’s keep the resolution on the table," he said. "It’s paramount that we maintain our national security."

A final speaker, who said she’d moved to Pine Island from southwest Kansas, said the community where she’d lived was ruined by felons who were in the United States illegally.

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She said while many illegal immigrants are good people, some bring their criminal operations to the United States. "Do you want that, or do you want them deported?" she asked the crowd.

Because the discussion took place during the public comment period during the end of the meeting, the city council took no action on the subject.

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Antonia Alvarez, of Minneapolis, addresses the Pine Island City Council Tuesday, asking the council to rescind its previous resolution telling Management & Training Corp. the city would like to be considered for a potential Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility.

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