County scrambles to mitigate economic woes with possible ICE closure



EL CENTRO – In an effort to get a firm response from the Center of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) related to the possible closing of the El Centro ICE Processing Center, Supervisors Michael Kelley, District 3, Ray Castillo, District 5, and CEO Ralph Cordova traveled to San Diego to speak to Immigration officials.


Kelley said they were told it was basically a business decision, based on being the highest costing facility of the six detention facilities the Immigration Department runs.


According to Immigration officials, the facility is old and when something goes wrong, like air conditioning units, they have to come up with the repair funds from their budget. With the federal sequester, those funds have been cut, and they needed to cut costs.


The decision has not been finalized, but will be decided before the contract expires June 30, 2014. Immigration desires to retain the inmates in the Imperial Valley and use the newly constructed MTC facility.


MTC plans on finishing their detention facility in June and has a contract with the US Marshalls to house inmates, but as of yet no contract with ICE.


Yet the Immigration officials told the county supervisors that if the MTC facility is not finished by June 30 they will extend being open, according to Kelley.



The officials said the local ICE facility would retain some jobs even after closing the detention part, mainly dealing with vehicles, vehicle maintenance, and parking storage.


Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter, field representative for US Representative Juan Vargas, also expressed her frustration with ICE officials. Vargas’s office has been in contact with ICE and they were told no decision had been made yet.


CEO Ralph Cordova said officially no decision had been made despite different reports being published. However, the certainty of how the decision is likely to fall indicates closure June 30 if space is available for the current and future inmates.