Immigrant detention center could box out governor with private land deal

By: - February 27, 2019 9:43 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer giving her first State of the State speech, Feb. 12, 2019 | Casey Hull

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday she does not know what authority — if any — she would have if a Virginia-based company opts for private land after the governor canceled its state land bid.

“I don’t know what my options would be, so I can’t tell you at this juncture,” Whitmer told reporters at a Michigan Works! event in Lansing.

Two weeks ago, the governor halted plans from Immigration Centers of America (ICA) to build a $35 million private immigrant detention center in Ionia.

Her decision came, in part, because of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s “zero tolerance” for illegal immigration and the agency’s previous policy of family separation.

In June 2018, President Donald Trump signed a new executive order reversing that policy with a new one that detains entire families together, including children.

But a spokeswoman for Whitmer said the governor still could not guarantee that the proposed detention center would not separate families, as the Michigan Advance first reported.

So the governor ordered the director of the Michigan Land Bank to reverse the preliminary $1.7 million land sale deal it brokered with the company, pending local and federal approval.

That plan may not be dead, however.

Dennis Muchmore

ICA’s legal counsel says the company may instead consider private land — an event in which the governor may be powerless to stop a new detention center, as the Advance also reported.

ICE has put out a request for a new immigrant detention center within 150 miles from its Detroit field office. State land ICA had bid on in Ionia was about 130 miles from the Detroit office.

“I’m sure we would consider private land,” Dennis Muchmore previously told the Advance. “That’s what makes the decision so baffling.”

Muchmore is contracted as ICA’s legal counsel in Michigan and was former Gov. Rick Snyder’s chief of staff.

A spokeswoman for Whitmer said they will “cross that bridge if [and] when it happens.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein

Michael Gerstein is a former Advance reporter covering the Governor's office, criminal justice and the environment.