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One Company Backs Out Of Building Evanston Immigrant Detention Center, Another Steps In

Melodie Edwards
Wyoming Public Radio

Last week, Uinta County Commissioners made a trip to California to visit a privately-owned Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility to evaluate whether the company should be allowed to build a similar one in Evanston. The original company, Management and Training Corporation or MTC, backed out, and a new company, CoreCivic, has stepped in.

Commissioner Mark Anderson said, during his visit, he saw a facility that was clean and comfortable.

"We heard laughter, we saw a lot of smiles on [the detainee's] faces," said Anderson. "There was a group of girls-when I say girls, they were all over 18-some that were braiding each other's hair."

This is the second time the Uintah county commissioners have made such a trip. They also visited MTC's facilities to evaluate conditions. Anderson said the conditions of each were identical.

But Anderson said, the commissioners aren't completely confident the detention center will be built. ICE recently let them know that the Request For Proposal (RFP) process has been put on hold.

"When they put an RFP on hold, to my knowledge, there are things that can change there that may stall this project for who knows how long," said Anderson. "It might be on hold for two years, we don't know. We just don't know."

Antonio Serrano is with the group WyoSayNo that's working to stop the ICE detention center. He said the facility won't save Evanston's boom-and-bust economy the way the commissioners hope it will.

"These jobs are not going to be for Evanston people," he said. "These are going to be held for detainees, especially if it's CoreCivic. They're not going to give these jobs to local residents. They're going to force detainees to do them."

Serrano said there's a reason the approval process stalled.

"I think [MTC] was starting to feel the pressure back at home. That could be a big reason they're backing off," said Serrano. "How would it make the company look to push something through when it's obvious, very obvious, the community doesn't want it? I think they're just trying to play it safe."

Serrano said his organization learned about MTC backing out accidentally while sorting through some paperwork, rather than through a press release from the county. He said, in the future, the county commissioners need to be more transparent by hosting more townhall meetings and releasing updates to the local media.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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