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Immigrant advocates say they'll keep fighting against proposed detention facility in Ionia

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Grand Rapids

A proposed immigration detention facility in Ionia County will face opposition every step of the way. That’s the message from a group that’s been speaking out against the facility.

The Ionia County Commission had been considering a resolution to support the proposed facility, which could eventually house up to 600 people. But commissioners tabled the resolution after a number of people spoke out against it.Legally, the county commission wouldn’t have to sign off, and the facility could move forward anyway.

“We are just going to make sure that the word gets out to the community that this is not something we need or want in our community,” says Timothy Thompson, who lives in the area and opposes the facility.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement first sought proposals on a new detention facility in 2019. One early proposal would have used the state’s former Deerfield Correctional Facility, but Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office stepped in to block the sale from going through.

Since then, Immigration Centers for America, a private company that’s bidding on the project, has proposed other sites. The new site under consideration in Ionia county is private property, in an area of the county that’s not subject to local zoning ordinances.

That means there are fewer options for opponents to stop the facility.

Thursday, Michigan United, an advocacy group that supports immigrants in Michigan hosted an online meeting to discuss the opposition to the detention facility.

“I think the strategy is give them hell,” says Monica Andrade, a legal fellow with the ACLU of Michigan. “And then to see that it’s going to be too difficult to do it here, and to leave.”

Andrade says ICA has a history of civil rights complaints at another facility it operates in Virginia.  

A spokesman for the company says ICA is a better option for immigrant detention than at county jails, where they are often held in Michigan.

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Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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