Over 160 people gathered at Shooter’s in Appleton on Tuesday evening to organize against the proposed reopening of the Prairie Correctional Facility as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center. The meeting was hosted by the Coalition of Concerned Residents of Western Minnesota (CCRWM).

The now-dormant, 1,600-bed facility is Minnesota’s only private prison. It is owned by CoreCivic, one of the largest private prison groups in America. According to CCRWM organizers, CoreCivic has submitted a proposal to reopen the facility as an ICE detention center. The status of the proposal is currently unknown.

Organizer Amy Bacigalupo says CCRWM is concerned about CoreCivic’s “track record of human rights abuses.” She also shared concerns about how the presence of a detention center would affect regional cohesion. 

“This isn’t who we are as a region. We want to be an inclusive and welcoming community,” said Bacigalupo. “We are a community of immigrants, and having an ICE detention center here would only create division.”

In addition to learning about the CoreCivic proposal, attendees also participated in small group discussions on immigration policy and economic opportunity in the Appleton area.

“The tables were a mix of people in opposition [to the ICE proposal], people who were unfamiliar, and people who were very supportive of the idea,” said Bacigalupo. “We were really excited for the opportunity to get to know each other and talk about it – regardless of where people are at on this issue.”

According to Bacigalupo, over 150 people signed a petition on Tuesday night expressing opposition to the proposed reopening. The petition will soon be made available online, then distributed to lawmakers and community leaders.