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Centerville protestors target proposed Wyoming immigration jail serving Utah

July 14, 2018

CENTERVILLE — With the separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border in the news and immigrant detention centers around the country seemingly getting more and more crowded, Hillary McDaniel figured she had to take a stand.

“We felt we needed to look at what’s going on with ICE in our community, our own backyard,” she said. ICE, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is the federal agency charged with enforcement of U.S. immigration laws and border control.

That led to a noisy protest Thursday outside the Centerville headquarters of Management & Training Corp., which operates three ICE detention centers, and the arrests of McDaniel and seven other demonstrators by Davis County authorities.

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It doesn’t end there, though.

The key call of the demonstrators — members of  ICE Free SLC and Abolish ICE: Utah, loose coalitions formed in opposition to ICE — is for MTC to withdraw plans for another ICE immigrant detention center in Evanston, Wyoming, that would serve the greater Salt Lake City area, including Ogden. MTC now operates detention centers in Calexico, California; Chaparral, New Mexico; and Livingston, Texas.

Building more privately run detention centers creates more pressure to arrest immigrants, charges McDaniel, who’s from Salt Lake City. “You’re just basically profiting off of peoples’ suffering,” she said.

More specifically, Sabrina King warns that a new detention center — with up to 600 beds — could mean an uptick in enforcement action against those in the country illegally all around Evanston, into northern Utah and Weber County. She’s policy director with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming, which is spearheading a campaign to stop the Evanston plans.

“They’re really trying to expand their ability to detain people in the region, so it will certainly affect folks in Ogden,” King, who’s based in Laramie, Wyoming, said by phone. Evanston is about 80 miles from Ogden and 90 miles from the Salt Lake City area.

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Last October, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security  issued a “request for information,” or RFI, seeking preliminary proposals for new ICE detention centers around Salt Lake City, Chicago, Detroit and St. Paul, Minnesota. MTC submitted a proposal for the Salt Lake City area — where ICE has a field office — and King said ICE could be releasing information on what comes next within the next two to three months.

“We don’t know if or when that will happen,” said Issa Arnita, the MTC director of communications.

Arnita deflected the criticism Thursday’s protestors directed at MTC. Policy decisions related to the apprehension of those in the country illegally comes from federal government officials, not MTC reps. 

“We don’t make policy. We have zero effect on policy,” he said. Concerns and criticism related to immigration policy, he said, should be directed to ICE and U.S. lawmakers, not MTC.

The eight protestors arrested face misdemeanor charges stemming from their action.

‘AMPED UP OPERATIONS’

As is, those in the country illegally who are detained locally by ICE may end up at ICE detention facilities in Aurora, Colorado, or the Las Vegas area, said Francisco Roman, an Ogden immigration attorney. Given ICE’s field office in West Valley City, also home to federal immigration court facilities, he’s not surprised the agency would seek a detention center in the area, near those operations.

Immigration officials have “really amped up operations” since President Donald Trump took office, he said. A new privately run detention center in Evanston, he thinks, could spur yet more ICE action across Utah and Wyoming and into Idaho and Colorado.

MTC said in a statement last month that it does not house children or minors at any of its three facilities, a situation in the news lately because of a flurry of separations of migrant families along the border, now over. Arnita, meanwhile, emphasized the cleanliness of MTC’s facilities and the medical and legal assistance available to detainees.

“If these protestors were to visit any of our centers, we’re confident they would leave assured that the detainees are treated with great care, respect and dignity,” MTC said in a statement in response to the Centerville protest.

King of the Wyoming ACLU, in arguing against building more detention facilities, said arrests of those in the country illegally due strictly to their migratory status have been largely rare over most of the nation’s history. She also lamented the use of private detention center operators to house those in the country illegally because it introduces the profit motive in carrying out immigration policy.

“As a country, we shouldn’t be detaining immigrants, particularly for private gain,” she said.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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