An empty detention center in Littlefield, Texas, is being considered as housing for the overflow of illegal immigrants in the state. The facility, which has been closed since 2009, is costing residents 13 percent of their annual budget and the city is ready to find new management. Despite arguments against using the facility to house illegal immigrants, the City Manager, Mike Arismendez, said it will be good for the city.
â??The issue that we have [of illegal immigrants] is a federal issue and itâ??s not going to be resolved on a local level,â?? said Arismendez. â??Itâ??s going to be an economic impact to the city, itâ??s going to have job creation, itâ??ll help to alleviate the debt service. So we kind of see this as a positive for the city.â??
The facility was built in 2000 as a youth facility for the Texas Youth Commission but in 2004, the TYC made a decision to pull out youth inmates and put them in state run facilities. It was then converted to an adult facility and inmates from the state of Wyoming were brought in, followed by Idaho. Both states decided to bring back their inmates, leaving the facility empty and unused by 2009.
â??Weâ??re talking about a $750,000 payment a year. If you can figure a six million dollar budget, and losing that moneyâ?| a lot can be done,â?? said Arismendez.
The facility has been maintained well. The head of the Public Utilities department for the city said they maintain the facility on a monthly basis by flushing toilets, sweeping the floors and mopping the floors. But it does take away from the work he and his crews could be doing.
â??This has taken away from our normal activities,â?? said Williamson. â??Babysitting this thing. Itâ??s like the stepchild of my department.â??
City officials have been working with ICE or Immigrant Customs and Enforcement for the past two years. Theyâ??ve traveled to Washington D.C. to pitch their case and use of the facility to help with the overflow and worked with local Congressman on having their voice heard. Due to recent media coverage of growing numbers of illegal immigrants pouring into the state, they said that ICE called them as early as two weeks ago to reopen discussions on using the facility.
â??The facility is ready to go at this point and time. We maintained the facility over the last few years to ensure that if we had possible occupants, that we could move them in immediately,â?? said Arismendez.
Officials said they could have the facility up and running in 30 days if given the green light by ICE or anyone else interested in utilizing the empty detention center. That short amount of time would be used to hire and train employees to begin working there, but the facility itself is ready to go.