LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s decision Friday to block an immigration-detention center from being built in Ionia isn’t going over well with the Republican chairman of the Michigan House Appropriations Corrections subcommittee.
Whitmer, a Democrat, canceled the sale of the former Deerfield Correctonal Facility to Immigration Centers of America (ICA), and her office issued a written statement that reads, in part:
“The Governor believes that building more detention facilities won’t solve our immigration crisis, and she also believes that separating families doesn’t reflect our Michigan values…therefore, the governor has decided that the sale of state property in Deerfield to ICA will not move forward.”
But Republican State Representative Thomas Albert, whose 86th District includes portions of Ionia and Kent counties, said in a news release, “I would really like to know what the governor’s plan is to bring 250 well-paying jobs to Ionia and how she plans to clean up the long-vacant former prison property. The sale of this blighted property has been in the works for well over a year and the governor’s heavy-handed rejection came days before the sale was to be finalized.”
The Michigan Land Bank, the ICA and the City of Ionia had worked out a development agreement for the $35 million privately-operated federal immigration-detention center. The Associated Press reported it would hold between 500 and 600 detainees.
The Deerfield Correctional Facility closed in 2009. ICA operates a similar detention center in Farmville, Virginia.
Albert says, “It’s obvious the governor’s rejection was about appeasing her political base and taking a swipe at President Trump. Like it or not, people that come into this country illegally are going to be detained. Ionia has been a correctional community since the mid-1800’s. They deserve to have been involved in this decision.”
But Gov. Whitmer notes that the decision by the Michigan Land Bank last October to proceed with the project was made under former Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration.
Whitmer’s written statement in full:
“A decision by the Michigan Land Bank to proceed with this project was made last October under Gov. Snyder’s administration. When Gov. Whitmer took office in January, our team began a thoughtful and deliberative review process that included input from local elected officials, community leaders, civil rights groups, and ICA. From that due diligence, it was determined that ICA was unable to agree to terms that guaranteed that this facility would not be used to detain adults who had been separated from their children or other family members and could not assure certain other conditions without ICE approval.
“The Governor believes that building more detention facilities won’t solve our immigration crisis, and she also believes that separating families doesn’t reflect our Michigan values. Therefore, the Governor has decided that the sale of state property in Deerfield to ICA will not move forward. As the Governor has said before, it’s time for President Trump and Congress to work together on a bipartisan immigration reform plan that keeps communities safe, protects American jobs, and keeps families together.”