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Advocates Hail Gov. Whitmer’s Rejection of For-Profit Immigrant Detention Facility in Ionia

Private prison would have been unfair to families, made access to lawyers difficult for immigrants

Ionia will not be getting an immigrant detention facility now that Governor Gretchen Whitmer has intervened. Before the Ionia City Council could render a decision on the proposal by a private company to take over the old Deerfield Correctional facility, Whitmer rejected their offer at the state level.

By law, undocumented immigrants taken into custody in Detroit by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) must be held within 150 miles. The ironically named Immigration Centers of America (ICA) offered to turn the Deerfield facility into a for-profit, immigrant detention facility in Ionia, 143 miles away. Not only would a new prison anywhere in Michigan make it easier for ICE to tear families apart, one so far away would also make it harder for their lawyers to work with them, harder for their families to come visit them and much harder for the community to rally in their support.

Assita, the daughter of Banny Doumbia who was deported to the Ivory Coast last year, knows what it means to be separated from a loved one you are fighting for.

“During the 90 days of my fathers detainment, I felt suffocated. When he was deported 4 months ago I felt stripped of comfort,” said Assita. “Hearing this news about my governor putting a stopping to yet another detention center brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Such an act like this by Governor Whitmer is only a start of something bigger–I know we can make Michigan a safe place for all our families.”

“We applaud Governor Gretchen Whitmer for standing up for immigrant families today, and standing against the private prison industry. This facility would have made it incredibly difficult for detainees to access their attorneys, depriving them of their right to due process. No one should make a profit off the backs of families being torn apart. Governor Whitmer did the moral and just thing today, and is an example to other governors across the country,” said Michigan United Board Member and pastor at Unity Lutheran Church Rev. Jack Eggleston.

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