McAllen private jail project offers benefits, raises concerns

The number of immigration cases seen at the McAllen Federal Courthouse is growing and the city of McAllen sees it as an opportunity to increase revenue.

The city is looking to build a privately run detention center for those who are waiting to go through trial.

"This is a business decision, were looking at ways to help our budget, alternative revenue streams we are in such a challenge, City Commissioner John Ingram said. The hope is we are able to continue to offer the great services we already are without raising property taxes and this is one way to do it."

But local groups like immigration lobby, LUPE and Occupy McAllen say a privately run facility has no place in the community and are circulating a petition to stop it.

"These private prisons have a very bad record so it TMs not a good option," said Ismael Melendez, organizer of Occupy McAllen.

Melendez says he's worried the undocumented immigrants who are housed in the facility will not be treated well.

"Because they won't have the oversight, the care they provide for the detainees will not be as good as a state run prison," Melendez said.

Commissioner John Ingram says the facility will generate $1 to 2 million a year for the city and create 200 to 450 jobs.

But Melendez says most of the jobs will not support a family.

"This facility would bring low-wage jobs, Melendez said.

While opponents also argue it will be an eyesore, the commission hopes to find a location where most won't even know it TMs there.

"A priority for the city commission is to find a site that will affect the least amount of people. Hopefully if and when this gets put in you won't even know it's here, Ingram said.

Before the McAllen City Commission decides on whether or not to build a private detention center in their city, they want to hear from the public and are holding a public hearing at City Hall on Wednesday September 11 at 5:30pm.

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