Spates: ICA-Farmville May Expand To Include Families

Published 12:11 pm Thursday, September 18, 2014

FARMVILLE — The ICA-Farmville immigration detention facility may expand, according to town manager Gerald Spates, and that expansion may include the housing of families.

The facility is contracted by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) to house non-violent illegal aliens detained while being processed through immigration court.

“There’s a possibility that the ICE facility is looking at expanding,” the town manager told town council. “We get quite a bit of revenue from that project and they want to expand the facility, which would bring additional jobs and additional revenue and tax base. And it would all be done on the same property.”

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And, Spates added, “this project could house families, as well as detainees.”

The Town receives one dollar per day per detainee from the facility.

“If they have families,” pointed out Ward B council member Sally Thompson, “this would greatly change the way the facility is run, as far as children.”

If the expansion does include the housing of families, the town manager noted, the property is sufficient to allow the construction of a separate facility for the families.

The kitchen area, he said, is in the center of the facility and the detainees are kept on the left-hand side.

Construction for the housing of families, Spates said, would be added on to the right and to the front of the facility “so it would be a separate facility. It would be separated from the kitchen. It would be served by the same kitchen, the same medical area, but they would be totally separate, so that they would not be in a mix.”

The town manager said the reason ICE is looking at the Farmville facility is “they consider the Farmville facility their goldmine because it’s so well run and it’s designed with dignity, to treat the detainees as people; they’re not prisoners.”

Mayor David E. Whitus commented that ICE considers the ICA-Farmville operation “a national model. It is the mark for everybody else to strive for.”

Ward D council member Donald L. Hunter wondered if an economic impact report has ever been compiled “on what has taken place since the ICE facility has come to town and how it has helped the town, in reference to the revenue it has created.”

No, Spates, replied, “we don’t have a study, but we can get them to do one.”

Such a report, the mayor enthused, “would be a really good idea.”

Following up his train of thought, Hunter pointed out that the dollar per day per detainee doesn’t paint the full picture.

“I think there’s a lot more involved than just that dollar a day,” he said, of the economic impact “being put into the Town of Farmville and surrounding area.”

Hunter then made a motion requesting the economic impact report be compiled for the Town.

Several questions were asked of the possible expansion and potential inclusion of families.

“It will still operate under the premise of no (local) release” of detainees, the mayor queried.

“Right, it will still operate under the premise of no release here,” Spates confirmed.

Ward E council member Jamie Davis asked how the process will play out. “With them already being established here, would it be the same process they went through before?” he asked.

“Pretty much the same process…They’re already permitted,” Spates answered, “and they’re already operating and we already have a contract with them, so none of that would change. Of course, the plans for what they’re going to do with the facility would come back to town council for them to approve.”

Continuing her focus on children, Thompson spoke of their educational needs. “It would have to be a greatly expanded type of facility. It would be a completely different type of facility,” she reiterated.

Spates said that “detainees, Ms. Thompson, come under a different organization. Children come under HHS (the US Department of Health and Human Services). They come under different guidelines. We’re dealing strictly with ICE and if that falls in place…it would have to comply with all their regulations.”