EVANSTON – The Uinta County Commission and Evanston City Council unanimously voted last spring for resolutions supporting the proposed Im­migration and Customs Enforcement (lCE) detention center that the private company Management Training Corporation (MTC) is pursuingjust outside Evanston city limits. However, across Wyoming, opposition is mounting and organizing.

WyoSayNo - described by organizer Antonio Serrano as a coalition of concerned people who are from Wyoming, love Wyoming and are concerned about the impact such a facility would have on Wyoming communities - has a website, an active Facebook social media presence and an official launch event scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 13, in Cheyenne, with simultaneous watch parties scheduled in communities around the state.

Dalia Pedro, fellow organizer, said the purpose of the WyoSayNo group and the launch event is to provide information on what an immigration center would mean for Wyoming communities, including those in Uinta County, and to hopefully stop its construction.

Serrano and Pedro said they are very concerned about the proposed center for several different reasons. Both said they work extensively with immigrant families in Wyoming and believe an ICE detention center would be detrimental to Wyoming communities by breaking up immigrant families.

Pedro said in her work with the Immigration Alliance of Casper it's a common problem for a family breadwinner to be detained, which often results in citizen children then becoming dependent on government assistance due to the loss of income.

Serrano said he works with Juntos in Cheyenne, an organization focused on protecting children when parents are detained.

Both Serrano and Pedro expressed concern about the for-profit nature of the facility.

"When there is profit involved in locking people up,” Pedro said, “there is an incentive to want to make as much money as possible, which leads to cutting corners. The mentality of making profit off of locking people up makes it really easy to try to find ways to make more money and housing people in not-so-good conditions."

Pedro also said she believes simply having an immigration center in Wyoming would lead to increased efforts to detain people and more families being broken up because a for-profit facility creates a drive to fill the beds.

The WyoSayNo launch event will feature multiple speakers discussing what they view to be negative consequences of the proposed facility, not just for Uinta County but for Wyoming and the surrounding areas.

"This doesn't just affect Uinta County," said Serrano. "This will break up families everywhere and have a big reach all over the state. This is a Wyoming issue, not just a Uinta County issue." Pedro said families in neighboring states would be affected as well.

Besides just breaking up families, Serrano, a Wyoming native, said he is concerned about Wyoming's image and what such a center could mean for future efforts at diversifying the state's economy.

"Places like that change the way people look at a community and a state," he said. "It creates division and turns people away who may be look­ing at coming here. I love my state and I love it too much to see that happen."

Pedro said she disagrees with Gov. Matt Mead's recent statement that a detention center is not a prison and therefore would not need the approval of the five statewide elected officials.

"Any place or site that holds people and locks them up is a prison," she said. "If the governor is in denial of that then he needs to step back and take a long look at it."

Serrano said he hopes Mead will continue to look into the proposal.

"I wish he wouldn't just step away from the problem," he said.

The pair of organizers said they recognized the desire of local officials to look for a solution to economic hardship and create jobs, but they both said they don't believe a detention center is going to be that solution.

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