Ionia Board of Commissioners supports locating ICE detention center in Ionia Township

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Ionia County, Mich. (WLNS) — The Ionia County Board of Commissioners said in a statement it supports the potential establishment of an ICE detention center in Ionia Township.

ORIGINAL STORY: (AP)

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.

In November 2019, a local group voiced concerns over a different private detention center in NorthLake Correctional Facility in Baldwin.

“We just don’t think that there should be any kind of corporate-run prisons in Michigan, especially racist ones that target immigrants specifically,” said Brandon Johnson, a member of No Detention Centers in Michigan.

“Why would we have a prison that specifically targets one population? And is there a potential for abuse there? I think the answer is yes. This is run by a private corporation that is designed to make money,” said Johnson.

No Detention Centers in Michigan formed when a $35 million immigrant detention center was going to be built in Ionia, until it was blocked by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

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.

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