Clearfield County took public comment and voted on allowing an area prison to operate as an immigrant detention center.
Clearfield County commissioners approved a five-year agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and the privately-run GEO group to operate Moshannon Valley Correctional Center as an immigrant detention center.
The prison closed in March, but the deal wasn’t without its concerns.
Commissioners say that migrants will not be released from the facility into Clearfield County.
The capacity of the facility will be 1,864 migrants and will only be adults, according to David Venturella of the GEO group.
The acting director of ICE’s Philadelphia field office, Brian McShane, says that immigrant detention is not punitive like criminal detention.
“Immigration detention is for the purposes that we can secure someone’s removal or detention through their removal proceedings,” explained McShane. “So, they will be in removal proceedings while they are detained there — and if it comes to a decision that they be removed, we would then seek to remove them from the facility.”
Nearly 300 jobs were lost in March after the contract with the Federal Bureau of Corrections expired, commissioners say.
Most of these folks will be rehired for the detention facility.
Some aired their worries about any dangers detained migrants might pose to the area.
“Do we know up front any convicted felons coming in from other countries,” one person asked at the meeting.
“Well, ICE will be vetting every individual,” McShane replied.
“At the facility? Or prior to getting to the facility,” the man asked.
“Prior to the facility because there would’ve been an arrest prior to them getting to the facility,” McShane responded.
Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, health safety also came up.
“As far as managing COVID, I mean, we follow all the federal guidelines and any state and local guidelines that are applicable,” explained David Venturella with GEO Client Relations. “We do provide personal protection equipment, masks. We have hand sanitizer. We do temperature checks..”
According to Venturella and Sobel, the agreement should take effect in 45 to 60 days.