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500-bed immigration detention facility proposed for New Richmond, WI

April 18, 2019 10:38 AM

A proposal to build an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center is grabbing the attention of people living in New Richmond, Wisconsin.

According to the city, the facility would be built just west of St. Croix Correctional Center on the outskirts of town.

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The parcel of land identified for the proposed detention center is currently a cornfield owned by a New Richmond family.

The facility would be owned and operated by Immigration Centers of America, a for-profit company based out of Virginia.

However, before construction can begin, the city of New Richmond needs to say yes.

"The main question they're asking is can we rezone some property to allow them to build a detention center here in the city of New Richmond," said Mayor Fred Horne.

RELATED: Companies propose immigration detention centers for Midwest

Horn says the city received an application from ICA last Friday.

An ICA spokesperson confirms they have a purchase agreement with the family that owns the land identified for the detention center.

The land is currently zoned as residential, so ICA asked New Richmond to rezone the land, which would allow them to build the detention center.

"So, it becomes a question of will we allow that," Horne said.  "Will we change the zoning ordinance to allow them to build that center?"

In its application to have the land rezoned, ICA described the facility as having 500 beds to "house immigrants detained on behalf of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency."  

ICA says the facility will employ approximately 200 people and be situated over 20 acres.

In addition to having the land rezoned, ICA would need to have its bid selected from those submitted to ICE's RFP or request for proposal.  An ICE spokesperson confirms the agency did issue an RFP for detention space and that a facility could be built in "South or North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, or western Wisconsin."

"I find it offensive," said Susan Daggett, who attends First Lutheran Church just down the road from the proposed detention center.  "I find it wrong. I have no problem paying taxes until my taxes go to something so wrong."

"I don't see anything good coming from this for our community," added John Tuttle, who also attends First Lutheran Church.  "How it ended up (in New Richmond) is beyond me."

ICA's spokesperson says its facility will be a more humane way to house immigrants than the county jail, where many ICE detainees end up now.

Horne says the city will hold public meetings about the center before any decision is made.

"We want to give the public the opportunity to voice their concerns, positive or negative," Horne said.  "There are some people who are for it, obviously there are a lot of people against it.  That's why we want to do some more public meetings."

A public meeting originally planned for April 25 was rescheduled in order to find a facility that can accommodate more people.

The city said Friday that a public meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 23 from 4:30-9 p.m. at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

To read ICA's application to the City of New Richmond in its entirety, click here.

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Tim Vetscher

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