Judge Tosses Lawsuit Against Pembroke Pines Over Southwest Ranches Immigration Detention Center

A hallway near the medical and dental clinics at a new civil detention facility for low-risk inmates in Karnes City, Texas, o
A hallway near the medical and dental clinics at a new civil detention facility for low-risk inmates in Karnes City, Texas, on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. Federal officials are holding up the new facility as the centerpiece of an initiative to treat those facing immigration violation charges more humanely after lawsuits filed in past years. (AP Photo/Will Weissert)

PEMBROKE PINES -- City officials and residents who opposed an immigration detention center breathed a sigh of relief this week.

A judge ruled out the federal court case filed by Corrections Corporation of America against the city, essentially moving the issue back to state court.

"They thought they had a case and they don't," said Commissioner Jay Schwartz.

Now the city can focus on its state lawsuit against CCA that will determine if the city is legally required to provide water and sewer services to that area, the city's legal counsel said.

The battle over that land, located in Southwest Ranches, goes back nearly two years when the site became the front runner for a $75 million, 1,500-bed immigration center.

Last June, ICE officials announced they were scrapping plans to build the center in Southwest Ranches.

The town and CCA blame that on Pines' decision not to provide water and sewer to the site, which they say the city is legally required to provide.

But Pines disagrees.

City officials voted to refuse water and sewer to the site last March and shortly after filed a state court case to determine if it is obligated to provide those services.

"We are unsure of what our rights are," said Schwartz. "So on advice of counsel, it was recommended we file a declaratory action."

But the next day, CCA filed its lawsuit in federal court delaying the state case.

"We had to spend money to defend ourselves which is an absolute waste of resources," said Schwartz.

U.S. District Judge William Zloch made note of CCA's hasty federal lawsuit in the court order and said that the issue should be handled in state court.

Zloch also said that arguing the same issue in both federal and state court is a waste of judicial resources and could result in different, inconsistent rulings.

CCA's attorney, Leonard Samuels, would not comment on the case Thursday.

Pembroke Pines and Southwest Ranches residents who publicly opposed the site said they were "delighted" with the ruling.

"As we've said all along, [it] is not needed and is an immense waste of taxpayer money," said a news release sent out by the residents.

On top of this case, Pembroke Pines also faces a lawsuit from the town of Southwest Ranches that claims Pines breached its contract with the town concerning the development of a civil detention facility.

On Tuesday, Pines argued that the judge dismiss the case. The judge has yet to make a decision. or 954-356-4188 ___

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