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Proposal for new immigration detention facility in Ionia indicates an increase in ICE activity in Michigan

October 17, 2018

Several Michigan news sources are reporting that the Deerfield Correctional Facility, a former state prison in Ionia, could be the site of a new privately run detention facility for immigrants.

So far, only the Immigration Centers of America (ICA) has applied to purchase the former prison, which closed in 2009. According to the Detroit Free Press, the state has not signed off on the deal yet, although it is important to note that the former chief of staff to Gov. Rick Snyder who is now a lobbyist working for the detention center company, Dennis Muchmore. 

The Detroit Free Press article also states that the federal government is also waiting to find out if the facility will be able to hold between 500 – 600 immigrant detainees at any given time. The article also quotes the CEO of Immigration Centers of America, Russell Harper, as stating:

The Deerfield site will become a major employer and taxpayer instead of an abandoned correctional facility.

Of course the CEO of a corporation that makes money from detaining people would argue that this would be good for the city of Ionia, as is indicated by featuring the economic impact for local economies on their website. (seen in the graphic below) This is what those who are part of the Prison/detention Industrial Complex always argue, that prisons, jails and detention facilities are good business and will create jobs. Ionia has a long history of hosting a prison, which makes the likelihood that the city would agree to the new immigrant detention facility, almost a sure thing. 

Richard Kessler, an immigration lawyer based in Grand Rapids said this news signals, “the continued criminalization and detention of people who only have non-violent offenses. It is also problematic that this is a for profit endeavor. It is upsetting and frustrating, this trend of for profit detention facilities that is happening across the country and it is my experience that the private facilities tend to treat people worse than state run facilities. If this detention facility comes to pass it will likely lead to an increase in detention of immigrants in Michigan and ultimately, it will hurt more families within the immigrant community.”

Immigration Centers of America

Immigration Centers of America was founded in 2008 and provides detention and transportation services for the US Department of Homeland Security. Their Farmville Detention Facility in Virginia, is often cited as a shinning example of the kind of services they offer to Homeland Security.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, ICA spent around $50,000 on lobbying in 2011, which makes sense, since that is the year they first began to operate the Farmville Detention Facility. 

What this proposed Immigration Detention facility could mean for Michigan

This news that Ionia could be an immigrant detention facility for between 500-600 immigrants is deeply disturbing news. What those of us who work with the immigrant community and and for immigrant justice need to consider are the following:

  • The new ICA facility will further criminalize immigrants
  • It will lead to an increased level of fear within the immigrant community
  • It will result in an escalation of family separation within the immigrant community
  • It signals a deeper relationship between the state and private power
  • It affirms the Trump administration’s desire to increase ICE agents and ICE activity in Michigan

For those who are committed to the fight for immigrant justice, the proposed privately run immigrant detention facility means we have our work cut out for us and will make 34 ICE detention facilities in Michigan, based on the data  from the Dept. of Homeland Security that you can see in the map shown here on the right. La Lucha Sigue!!

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