U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has opened a new facility to hold illegal immigrants being sent back to their home countries - a 25,000 square foot converted airport hangar near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
ICE has been under fire in recent months for the conditions in some facilities where suspected illegal immigrants are detained pending hearings on their cases and removal to their home countries. ICE head John Morton has pledged to overhaul the system and add new facilities.
The new Arizona Removal Operations Coordination Center can hold 157 detainees, though none are likely to be there long – it’s intended for people awaiting ICE-chartered flights back to Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador.
This year, ICE’s Arizona office expects to send more than 22,000 people back to Central America – twice as many as in 2006.
“ICE's goal has been to fly out persons who are here illegally as quickly as possible after a judge's final order of deportation or removal," said Mark Lenox, deputy assistant director of the Office of Detention and Removal Operations Removal Management Division in a statement. "This state-of-the-art facility in a critical area like Mesa in one of the busiest states in the union for alien removals is very important for my program and for ICE."