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PolitiFact weighs in on Broward prison spat

Southwest Ranches is a tiny wealthy suburban enclave in western Broward County where some residents still ride horses, and the town once fought a street light proposal because residents didn't want the lights to interfere with their view of the stars.

Now the rural-suburban oasis has become embroiled in controversy because of a longtime plan to build a jail. The town's plan to have a jail on the site had been publicly discussed for many years. But an uproar erupted in 2011, when U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement announced that it had tentatively selected the Southwest Ranches site for an immigration detention facility. The Miami-based Florida Immigrant Coalition, a pro-immigration group that opposes the jail, robo-called nearby residents.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat who represents the area, wrote a letter of support for the project in April 2011, along with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. But as the controversy grew, Wasserman Schultz later wrote a letter to the town's mayor urging the town to hold a meeting with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE), and that meeting occurred Nov. 5.

Hundreds of residents gathered at a library to voice their concern. The Miami Herald described the meeting as a circus-like atmosphere -- replete with plenty of roving sheriff's deputies and a "First Amendment" area. The angry crowd was clearly against the project, and Mayor Frank Ortis, from neighboring Pembroke Pines, drew the biggest applause, the Miami Herald wrote.

Watch Ortis on the city's video of the meeting starting around minute 76:

"Let me just say that the longer I sit at this meeting, the angrier I'm getting," Ortis said. "Many of you who have contacted our office I've told you this is a Southwest Ranches issue. We don't have a vote in it. Let me just finish. We don't have a vote in it. This is what happens when you don't go to the people first." (The Herald's article also included most of that quote.)

Ortis' passionate speech prompted someone at the meeting to suggest "Frank Ortis for governor."

Ortis, first elected as a commissioner in 1996 and mayor in 2004, ingratiated himself with the angry opponents of the prison. But was he correct to state that Pembroke Pines doesn't have a vote in the project? Read PolitiFact's take on his claim.



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SWR Resident

Thanks for calling him out! Please do so for the Pines Vice Mayor as well!!!

Pines Against Ortis

Another politico just spouting pure BS to get re-elected! I can smell this all the way on the east side of the City!

4 the facility!

Kudos to Wasserman Schultz and Senator Nelson for bringing jobs to Broward County! I need the work! Ortis should be ashamed of himself, and the residents who believed his statements need to check the record that you have posted. Great Job!

Laguna Isles

Didn't Iris Siple claim that this was snuck by her? I guess she missed the fact that she voted for it at least 5 times!

Pines Gal

Can't believe Ortis said that and thought that no one would catch him in the lie. He needs to appologize to his residents and to the Ranches. He needs to admit what the Commission did and work with the Ranches to minimize the impacts on all of us now that the deal is done. Great Article!

Pines Resident

Unbelievable that our Mayor and Commissioner Siple would try to make us believe they had no idea about this when it came before them so many times. Shame on you for tricking your residents to make yourselves look like heros.

Ashamed Pines Resident

I was at this meeting and was ashamed to be a resident of Pembroke Pines. The way the audience acted was embarassing and Mayor Ortis's behavior jumping up on the stage and screaming at the people on stage was very juvenile. All should be ashamed that they behaved this way in front of a high level Federal official. No wonder Washington does not speak to its people before making decisions. Look what they go here - grown ups act like monkeys at a official meeting.

gai southwest ranches

it amazes me when elections are comeing up politians will stand up and lie in their teeth just to get re-elected. what was even more telling was that they were worse then the most irrate resident because they were unprofessional [pem.pines] and in respect very disrespectful to the people that were there at the request of the public. at least southwest ranches were reserved even with the yelling. all any of the politicans from pines had to do was tell the truth and if the 200 plus residents voted against them that is .000001% of the voters in pines. politicans know they can not please all the people all the time so why not just tell the truth. i think even if they don't want to hear it they would respect you more.

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