Immigrant Centers of America is looking to build a new detention center for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, in Michigan. John Truscott, spokesman for ICA, says they haven’t closed on the land, but an agreement is in place.
Kurt Scheurer is the supervisor for Ionia Township. He says ICE has been in contact with the township and the city for some time, asking for input on the plans. Ionia County already has a number of prisons, so Scheurer says another detention center would hardly come as a shock to local residents.
“Ionia is a prison town anyways," he said.
Scheurer says the facility would be economically great for both the city and the township.
“It would be a huge benefit for the city, for the schools, for the county, and for the township, not including the jobs it would bring in," Scheurer said.
According to Truscott, the facility would have 250 employees, with an average salary of $60,000-$65,000. He says the facility would hold detainees referred by the courts or ICE, people who are now held in county jails that ICE has contracts with. He says the new center would hold about 500 people.
Last year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer blocked the Immigrant Centers of America (ICA) from buying the Deerfield Correctional Facility in Ionia County. ICA was the only bidder on the former correctional facility.
Scheurer says there hasn’t been much opposition to the project. Even if there is pushback, the township isn't like able to do anything to stop the plans because there is no zoning in Ionia Township.
“The problem that some people are having with us as a township is not understanding why we’re not trying to stop it or something. It is a private seller selling to a private business. The basic rule of thumb is if you do not have zoning, your hands are tied when you try to stop something like that. So without having zoning in Ionia Township, you could make something very difficult by putting stipulations in, but the cart is already ahead of the horse," he said.
This means that generally, there are no restrictions on what can be done on a piece of property: as long as it’s legal, it can be residential or commercial, or for any desired use. You could put a factory next to a house, or, in this case, a detention center on a piece of farmland.
Scheurer says there is no timeline or expected date for the center, but he suspects the process may have been delayed due to COVID-19.