Feds considering Youngstown prison for immigrants

Combined dispatches


Homeland Security officials are scrambling to find 5,000 prison and jail beds to handle a record number of undocumented immigrants being detained in the U.S., and the former CCA prison in Youngstown is one possible location, the Wall Street Journal and Cleveland Plain Dealer are reporting.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson met Tuesday with senior leaders at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the Customs and Border Protection agency so officials could review their plans to handle thousands more people expected to cross the southwest border with Mexico in coming weeks, the Journal reported.

ICE is currently holding more than 40,000 people in detention centers – more than it has ever had in custody before – and has warned budget officials that it needs a quick infusion of $136 million more just to keep running detention centers until early December, according to internal Department of Homeland Security documents and officials.

Part of the surge is due to thousands of Haitians who left their country after it was stricken by a severe earthquake in 2010, fleeing to South America and taking several years to make it to the U.S. southern border, officials say.

More than 5,000 Haitians have now reached the Mexican towns of Tijuana and Mexicali and are preparing to present themselves at U.S. ports of entry, officials said.

U.S. and Mexican officials have sought to avoid a crush at the San Ysidro border crossing in California by having the would-be entrants approach the border in a steady stream rather than all at once, officials said.

Last year, U.S. immigration facilities housed between 300 and 400 Haitians at any one time. Now, CBP is sending double that number every week to ICE for detention, officials said.

In addition to Youngstown, ICE is also considering facilities in Cibola County, N.M.; Aurora, Colo.; and Robstown, Texas, officials said.