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Feds proposing immigrant detention center in Ionia County

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Wikimedia Commons

The federal government is proposing a detention center in western Michigan to hold as many as 600 men accused of violating immigration laws.

The site is a 106-acre field in Ionia County, according to an April 23 letter sent to county commissioners by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The detention center would be privately operated and have more than 200 employees, ICE said.

“ICE respectfully requests that the Ionia Board of Commissioners provide information regarding any concerns, issues or other comments that it feels should be addressed” in an environmental assessment of the site, said David Frenkel, a program manager at the agency.

The letter was first reported online Tuesday by The Daily News in Greenville. Some commissioners expressed positive comments at a public meeting.

The center would be run by Immigration Centers of America, spokesman John Truscott said. The company runs a similar site in Farmville, Virginia.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last year stopped the sale of a former state-owned prison in Ionia County that was eyed as a detention site by Immigration Centers of America. Her office said “separating families doesn’t reflect our Michigan values.”

Spokeswoman Tiffany Brown declined to comment Wednesday on the new plan, which involves developing private property, not public land.

ICE now holds immigrants at jails in Monroe, Calhoun, St. Clair and Chippewa counties under agreements with local officials.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing immigrants in lawsuits over jail conditions during the coronavirus outbreak, wants Ionia commissioners to reject the plan.

“People who are pursuing their dreams of citizenship and fighting their immigration cases should be home with their families, not locked behind bars,” attorney Monica Andrade said.