Washington — The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is looking for possible detention sites in Metro Detroit to house 200 to 600 undocumented immigrants and other immigration violators.
The news was greeted with concern by immigrant advocates who said it suggested the Trump administration plans to ramp up its deportation efforts.
The request for bids for detention sites includes other “turn-key” facilities to jail detainees in greater Chicago, Salt Lake City, south Texas areas and St. Paul, Minnesota.
As described by the agency, the “ideal” facility or facilities in the Detroit area would have beds for minimum-, medium- and maximum-security adult detainees, both men and women, within 180 miles of the Detroit field office of ICE on Mount Elliott Street in Detroit.
The additional space is presumably to house the growing number of individuals arrested by immigration agents since the start of Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration violations.
The news of a possible detention center in Michigan was unsettling for Edward Bajoka, an immigration attoney who represents 15 Iraqi nationals in Metro Detroit who were arrested in June and slated for deportation.
“It just goes to show that the Trump administration is seeking to increase their ability to detain more and more immigrants,” Bajoka said. “Currently, they have facilities they rent out from Monroe County and Calhoun County; along with space at the Chippewa Correctional Facility up north.
“The fact that they’re looking for more space tells me they’re planning on ramping up enfocement and detaining even more people than they already hav,” Bajoka said.
Crystal Kassab Jabiro, a volunteer for Code Legal Aid, a non-profit organization that helps Iraqi-Americans get legal counseling and understand their rights, also expressed concern about a local detention facility, and said there are better uses for tax money.
“Honestly, I think those resources could be better used to putting people on a path toward citizenship, rather than punishing them for wanting to live the American Dream,” Jabiro said.
ICE arrested 97,482 people from Jan. 22 through Sept. 2 — an increase of 43 percent over the same period last year during the Obama administration, according to the latest data available from ICE.
The agency has also deported 33 percent more individuals arrested by ICE — 52,160 — than during the same period a year ago, when it deported 39,005.
Earlier this year, the administration requested more than $1.2 billion in the 2018 federal budget to expand detention capacity to more than 48,000 beds a day. The current daily capacity ranges from about 28,500 to 38,000, according to ICE.
In its Detroit request last week, the agency said it is seeking only feedback on potential detention locations and types of facilities at this time and is not asking for proposals or cost estimates from potential vendors. The response deadline is Oct. 26.
ICE is known to conduct market research such as this to examine options for rebidding current contracts or adding new ones.
The sites must provide or subcontract for medical care for detainees, as well as the secure, armed transport of detainees. It also must be within a half-hours’ drive of a hospital with an emergency room, surgical and mental health services, and within a 90-minutes’ drive of an airport approved for use by ICE, according to the federal notice.
The Michigan Department of Corrections is reviewing the federal notice but has not made a decision about whether to put it forward as an option for ICE, spokesman Chris Gautz said Wednesday.
The shuttered Standish Maximum Correctional Facility north of Bay City has a capacity of 1,000 beds, falls within the 180-mile radius of ICE’s office in Detroit and is close to a hospital.
“We’ll certainly take a look at it because we have a facility would at least meet some of the basic metrics that they’re looking for,” Gautz said. “It’s there, and I’m sure the folks in that community would love to see it repopulated again with folks working there.”
U.S. Bureau of Prisons officials previously considered opening a federal penitentiary at the site, touring the facility in 2010.
In 2009, the state closed the Standish prison, which employed more than 300 people, as the state’s prison population declined. The department has maintained the facility, but it has not housed prisoners since that time.
A study performed by the Corrections Department last year estimated that the cost of reopening and modernizing the Standish facility would cost $8.17 million, including security upgrades, utility work and a new fire alarm system.
ICE said it would use up to 100 percent of the space available at the proposed detention facility but would also consider multiple facilities of various sizes.
ICE agents on June 11 arrested 114 Iraqi nationals in Metro Detroit who had previously been ordered removed from the country. Many of the individuals, Chaldean Christians, have been sent to a detention center in Youngstown, Ohio.