SALT LAKE CITY — As the federal government seeks to add a new immigrant detention center in or near Utah, a Centerville company says it will make a pitch to run the operation near Evanston, Wyoming.
In an online notice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released details on the potential center within a 90-mile radius of its West Valley City office. It would house 250 to 500 people, according to the announcement posted last week.
The Wyoming city of about 12,000 is a roughly 83 mile drive from ICE's field office.
The Centerville-based Management and Training Corporation plans to work with Wyoming's Uinta County on a proposal for the center sometime after ICE formally requests bids from potential contractors, said company spokesman Issa Arnita. ICE said it plans to ask for the proposals on July 17.
The company has had the Evanston site in mind for over a year, in part because of strong local support there, Arnita said.
Utah has not been as receptive. Roughly a year ago, eight protesters were arrested at the company's offices after several chained themselves to the building in opposition to the federal agency and its contracts with private companies.
Luis Garza, executive director of the immigrant rights group Comunidades Unidas, said poor conditions in existing detention centers and a lack of transparency from ICE exacerbate his concerns about the possible Evanston operation.
"I think it's shocking how the Department of Homeland Security, instead of addressing the current humanitarian crisis at the border, they are moving forward with plans to increase capacity and incarcerate even more immigrant families and communities," Garza said. "It keeps us wondering: What are the plans, in terms of enforcement?"
His organization has worked with families of Utahns detained by the agency who struggle to get information on how to contact their loved ones behind bars, Garza said. It also believes the centers should not turn a profit.
ICE has refined its strategy for new detention centers based on responses to its prior calls for bids, said Alethea Smock, a spokeswoman for the agency. She did not confirm whether the new center would hold some of the surge in migrants at the U.S. border, but said the rising numbers of those arriving at the border have driven a need for more detention space.
The Evanston site would be the company's first in the Intermountain West. Management and Training Corporation currently operates four immigrant detention centers in the U.S. — two are in Texas, and San Diego and New Mexico each house one.
The Evanston plan has drawn criticism from Utah immigration attorneys, including Kate Barber, who told the online news outlet WyoFile that the hours of driving to and from Evanston could drive up legal fees and make it difficult to represent clients well because they can't confer with attorneys in person.