The struggle to build an ICE detention facility in Evanston, Wyoming

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) is the U.S. Department of Justice component responsible for adjudicating all immigration cases in the United States. West Valley City in Salt Lake County is the second-largest city in Utah and home to the EOIR Salt Lake City Immigration Court.

From the point of view of detainees held in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, the most convenient location is one that's near the regional immigration court, so they can have access to their attorneys and families. That is also most convenient for federal immigration authorities, who have to bring detainees to and from the immigration court.

Arranging for ICE detention facilities to be located near the court houses can be made difficult by immigration advocates. They oppose in-principle the existence of detention facilities for migrants, in any location or circumstance, and are especially active in opposition to immigration detention centers run by private companies. CoreCivc is the second largest operator of private corrections facilities in the United States. CoreCivic and the GEO Group run the lion's share of ICE detention facilities.

The proposed ICE detention facility in Evanston, Wyoming

The Utah County jail had been holding immigration detainees on behalf of ICE, but in recent years ended its contract. The Salt Lake Tribune cites immigration attorneys as saying that ICE began transferring detainees out of state at that point – many have been sent to Nevada and Colorado.

In 2017, ICE solicited rough estimate proposals for a new detention facility for the Salt Lake City Immigration Court. Private prison companies submitted proposals to construct facilities in various places; most of them hundreds of miles away from the court's West Valley City location. The closest proposal was for Evanston, Wyoming, 83 miles away and just over the state line. This summer, ICE made a firm request for proposals for a facility within 90 miles of the immigration court; a circumference just large enough to include Evanston.

Based in Centerville, Utah, Management & Training Corporation is the third-largest operator of correctional facilities in the United States. Management & Training Corporation had in recent years proposed a detention center in Evanston, where it enjoys support from local leaders. The situation is different in its home state of Utah, where MTC has faced protests over the detention facilities it operates nationally.

MTC recently withdrew its proposals for an Evanston immigration facility. That opened the door for CoreCivic, which is now pursuing the contract with hopes of constructing it in Evanston. In a new development, ICE has increased the preferred population for the proposed facility to 1,000 – for 800 males and 200 females.

The Open Borders crowd objects

On that most recent development, the Salt Lake Tribune interviewed Esther Merono, an organizer with a coalition of Latino groups called the Utah Coalition to Keep Families Together.

About that name: Adults who enter the United States illegally and get caught are detained. If they came with children, the children can't be placed in a prison together with adults, so they are housed in a separate facility under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A group that proclaims an objective of “keeping families together” is out to break down the U.S. system altogether; the likely end result reveals the initial objective.

The following is from the Salt Lake Tribune report:

While some have opposed the Evanston facility because its distance from court makes it difficult for detainees to have access to attorneys and families, Merono said her group opposes any new facility — no matter where it is built.

“You don’t want any new infrastructure built so that ICE can ramp up its activities,” she said. “We really want a complete moratorium on deportations and detentions” that break apart families.