IONIA, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — A company has proposed opening a privately-operated federal immigration detention center at the site of a Michigan prison in Ionia that was closed in 2009.
The Detroit Free Press reports Immigration Centers of America, which operates a detention facility in Farmville, Virginia, was the sole bidder for the former Deerfield Correctional Facility.
The newspaper says the $35 million facility would house adult immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement who haven’t been charged with or convicted of criminal offenses.
“These folks are just in the country illegally. They’re not felons. They’re not accused of any crimes. They are just being processed,” ICA spokesman Dennis Muchmore told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Tuesday.
Muchmore, a former chief of staff to Gov. Rick Snyder who is now a lobbyist working for the detention center company, said the state hasn’t approved the sale. He added the federal government also would need to issue a request for a facility to hold between 500 and 600 detainees.
“I don’t think jail is an appropriate place to house somebody who is being detained because they’re in the country illegally,” Muchmore said.
He touted ICA’s achievements and claimed it plans to offer top-notch medical services, recreational spaces, multiple types of visitation opportunities and access to a legal rights library. He also noted the center would create jobs for the area.
Lee Marvin, an immigration attorney in Grand Rapids, is not buying into the hype.
“For immigrants, it is not a benefit at all,” Marvin told 24 Hour News 8. “I don’t see anything that would be done to actually improve their situation through the detainment facility.”
Most of his clients are detained at the jail in Battle Creek, but he says where they’re held is not the real problem.
“There’s a lot easier ways to do that, more affordable ways. I know a lot people talk about the ankle bracelets (or) GPS monitoring. It’s a very effective way to do it and it is very inexpensive in comparison,” he said.
Marvin said he has seen an increase in immigrant families needing legal help since President Donald Trump’s administration instituted stricter immigration policies.