SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Buildout of a new federal holding facility to detain people suspected of immigration violations has resumed after complaints and other delays.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, facility will include a fenced-in parking area secure from the public and share space with a mental health clinic for veterans in an industrial district at 40 Manson Libby Road after the town’s planning board approved the project earlier this fall.
But the ICE facility won’t include any signage after concerns that it would share a building with the Portland Vet Center, a federal agency which provides mental health and counseling services to veterans.
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, asked federal officials this spring to reconsider locating the veterans center to the same building as the ICE facility after constituents feared it could negatively affect the mental health of veteran patients, if they came into contact with people handcuffed or shackled.
Federal officials agreed that ICE would not install signs or placards indicating its presence in the building. The agency will use a separate entrance and exit to obscure operations from veterans seeking treatment at the facility.
That proposal contradicts Scarborough’s municipal laws, which require that building occupants post signs for wayfaring.
ICE authorities will process, fingerprint and detain people suspected of immigration violations at the facility, the Bangor Daily News learned following a public records request from the agency in February. People apprehended by ICE agents would be kept in onsite holding rooms for up to 12 hours before being transported in unmarked vans to an overnight detention facility elsewhere, if necessary, according to the email.
Currently, people detained by ICE and awaiting immigration court proceedings are typically held at the Cumberland County jail before they are transferred out of state.
In October, attorneys from the ACLU of Maine filed a legal complaint against ICE officials for the practice of arresting people and housing them at the Cumberland County Jail before transporting them to detention facilities in southern states. The practice “creates conditions of extreme risk for exposure to COVID-19,” the complaint alleges.
The renovated building will contain 11,490 square feet of non-municipal government space split between the ICE facility and the veterans center. A private marketing firm leases 4,510 square feet in the building.
Scarborough officials were not aware of plans for the ICE facility when the Bangor Daily News reported the story in February. Town Manager Thomas Hall said then that the only inkling he had about the detention facility was when Maine Realty Advisors, which owns the property, called him to ask a “vague question” about the possibility of erecting a fence for a future tenant.
Maine Realty Advisors signed a lease with the General Services Administration, an agency that manages federal building contracts, in April 2019. The construction will be completed by Spring 2021, according to town planners.