PORTLAND, Maine — Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents remain tight lipped on how a planned facility to detain immigrants accused of immigration violations near here will actually operate.
The BDN broke the story earlier this month that ICE is building an Enforcement and Removal Operations holding facility in Scarborough to detain immigrants accused of violations, raising questions about how detainees will be treated, as well as the need for such a facility here.
Two months ago, the Trump administration rolled back a set of safety standards for detention and holding facilities operated by ICE.
Those revisions weaken standards for sanitation at facilities, and grant ICE officials with more authority to block access to media and legal aid organizations. They also scale back requirements for how ICE agents are trained to handle and manage confrontation and conflict, while expanding their power for the use of force and restraints on detainees. They remove prohibitions on the use of certain restraint techniques, such as hog-tying, and lift the ban on agents carrying firearms, batons and pepper spray. No longer will a detainee’s written consent be necessary before agents conduct a body-cavity search.
The lengthy set of revisions were outlined last month in a 10-page document released by the American Civil Liberties Union. They are the first changes to the National Detention Standards for facilities operated by the Department of Homeland Security since they were set in 2000.
“The new NDS standards have weakened critical protections and lowered oversight requirements for thousands of people in immigration detention nationwide,” said Eunice Cho, a senior staff attorney for the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“People in immigration detention face horrifying conditions marked by lack of medical, mental health care and abuse,” Cho said. “The Trump administration’s recent changes to the NDS standards only serve to weaken necessary oversight and protections for immigrants in detention.”
But it is still unknown how these sweeping changes could shape operations planned for the facility at 40 Manson Libby Road in Scarborough because details about the project are scarce. Multiple inquiries to an ICE spokesperson in Boston were not returned.
Buildout at the Scarborough facility is expected to begin “once the construction documents are completed and priced,” according to a spokesperson for the General Services Administration, an agency that manages real estate for the government.
According to an email the BDN obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, ICE would share the industrial building in Scarborough with a marketing firm and a federal veterans health agency that has signed a lease to relocate there. A federal leasing specialist described the facility as more akin to a “police station” than a “jail,” and wrote that ICE authorities would process, fingerprint and detain people suspected of immigration violations there before being transported in unmarked vans to facilities elsewhere.
ICE has no other holding facilities in Maine. The nearest Enforcement and Removal Operations field office is in Boston, according to the agency’s website.