A Virginia detention center, a pre-fabricated building manufacturer, a contracting database and a local activist were among those that responded to a federal inquiry gauging interest in opening a new Baltimore-area immigration detention center.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement posted an advertisement in April on a federal contracts forum seeking to identify one or more potential locations for a possible detention center near Baltimore capable of housing 600 to 800 men and women.
The Baltimore Sun obtained in July 40 pages of pamphlets and emails submitted to the agency by at least three companies and one individual in response to the ad. More than half the pages were completely redacted.
The Department of Homeland Security described the ad as an early step in gathering information as it decides whether to expand its holding capacity in Maryland.
Submissions received by the agency were not considered binding offers. Rather, ICE officials said in July, they plan to use the information to decide whether to move forward with a formal request for bids.
Asked whether ICE officials intend to issue a formal request, spokeswoman Justine Whelan said she had no new announcements in an email Wednesday.
Among the documents submitted to the agency was a cover letter, conceptual site plan and 14-page packet of information for an 800-bed facility from Immigration Centers of America, which operates a single, private immigrant detention facility for ICE with 700 beds in Farmville, Virginia.
The company’s packet was redacted, but a three-page cover letter offered a glowing account of the Virginia facility and expressed interest in creating a similar operation in Maryland.
In the letter, ICA officials said they hoped a Baltimore facility would serve as a national model for civil immigration detention.
“ICA remains dedicated to servicing ICE’s needs consistent with the highest standards of civil detention and is pleased to offer our services in both the housing and transportation of ICE’s detainees in the Baltimore area," the letter states. “Moreover, we would be honored to build upon our current efforts and collaboration with ICE by designing and operating facilities for the region that exceed all standards for civil immigration detention."
John Truscott, an ICA spokesman, said the company does not have an estimated budget for what it might cost to operate a Baltimore facility.
ICA was “born out of the federal government looking for an alternative to county jails,” Truscott said
“Typically someone who has crossed a border ... most do not have criminal backgrounds,” he said. “In a jail, they’re housed with criminals, which is less than ideal. The county jails are not meant to house families who may not have had any health care."
ICA’s facility in south central Virginia experienced an outbreak of mumps in early June, prompting officials to implement a quarantine that continues. The facility has obtained vaccines for detainees and is in the process of administering second doses, according to Piedmont Health District Director Robert Nash.
“It is not uncommon for detainees to have had no medical care for quite a long time before reaching the detention facility,” Truscott said in reference to the outbreak.
ICA officials were unsure whether they will respond to a formal request for proposals should ICE post one, Truscott said. ICA also is pursuing other opportunities for detention facilities in Illinois and Michigan.
Maryland Policy & Politics
A second company, the Texas-based Palomar Modular Buildings, also emailed ICE officials to express interest in helping form a Baltimore detention center.
Palomar, a manufacturer of modular and pre-fabricated buildings, submitted a flyer to ICE with a message that said it was capable of providing long-term and short-term solutions, from administrative space to secured facilities. Palomar officials did not respond to a request for comment.
The documents also show a representative with Deltek, a software company that maintains a database of open government contracts for its clients, sent an email to ICE officials asking about the nature of the agency’s inquiry. Deltek does not bid on government contracts itself, spokeswoman Lauren Cacciatori said.
One inquiry into ICE’s ad was submitted by an activist with Maryland WISE Women in June after the submission deadline had passed. The progressive group was founded following the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
Stephanie Orr said she sent a message from her work email to ICE officials in hopes they would be more likely to answer her question about the status of the request for information. An ICE contract specialist, whose name was redacted from the copies of the emails provided to The Sun, responded there was no update to report.
Orr and others with WISE Women are watching ICE’s activity in Maryland closely in hopes of preventing a new facility from being established, she said.
Orr doesn’t think ICE needs any more facilities in Maryland. A new facility would join Maryland’s three existing ICE detention centers in Frederick, Howard and Worcester counties.