BY BUDDY NEVINS
Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo met with a high official of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency last week and got few details on the planned Southwest Broward detention facility.
Castillo traveled to Washington for his meeting.
While not quite getting the brush off, Castillo learned one salient fact — the agency is secretive and doesn’t want to talk much about building an 1,800-bed detention facility in Southwest Ranches.
ICE is the typical federal agency. They are very willing to spend our money, but very unwilling to tell us about it.
Bureaucrats like Ann Yom Steel, whose title with ICE is long to emphasize her perceived importance, thrive in the dark.
And Washington wonders why the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street have support!
Here is Castillo’s e-mail to city officials, distributed last weekend:
From: Castillo, Angelo
Sent: Saturday, October 15, 2011 6:53 AM
To: Dodge, Charles
Cc: Goren, Sam (Cityatty.com<http://Cityatty.com>)
Subject: My Meeting With ICE in Washington
Please share with my colleagues.
I arrived home from Washington last night and wanted to get this out to you as quickly as I could. On Thursday, I met with Ann Yom Steel, Deputy Assistant Director for Congressional, Local and Indian Affairs for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency yesterday at her office inWashington DC. Her office is located within the Headquarters building of the Department of Homeland Security.
Director Steel is a senior executive within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. She has access to the Agency Director and is part of his executive managemen team. I thanked her for making time to see me with only two days notice. I shared with her the feelings and concerns of residents and asked that ICE officials come to our area and hold a town hall meeting in our community so that area residents could hear first hand what they have in mind and respond to their questions and concerns.
Director Steel was gracious and patient yet reserved in her commentary. She listened carefully as I itemized the objections and concerns to her agency’s planned facility that residents have indicated to me in emails and meetings. I discussed their concerns about property value worries, security issues, traffic concerns, proximity to schools, a suspect feeling about privite companies running facilities, whether the look of the community would change, among additional concerns that have been raised. Her response began by indicating that ICE is a law enforcement agency, part of the Homeland Security Department, and that they have, in her words, a difficult yet essential national security task accomplish with 20,000 staff and offices throughout the US and internationally. She is aware that ICE is not the most loved agency within the federal government but defended the agency’s mission as critical to national security. She indicated that in South Florida the agency experiences significant shortage ofdetention center capacity and that additional beds are needed. She asked me to understand that the agency has a certain protocol that they follow with respect to the establishment of facilities. That protocol is very regimented all aspects of which are closely overseen by acquisitions experts and legal counsel. She said that ICE rarely meets with residents in the setting that I requested. However, at my request, she is presenting my request to her superiors and legal counsel for review and promised to get back to me with a response in writing in early November.
Specifically, I asked her if the project was a “done deal.” She indicated that ICE would make no comment until their acquisitions staff, who are responsible for entering into the necessary contract, completed their task and that negotiations are in process. I asked if she had a timetable for completing those negotiations. She indicated that she was unaware of any timetable and could not respond with a specific timeframe. I asked if ICE had specifically asked the Town officials of SW Ranches to not speak to the public about their negotiations. She said she was unaware of any such request. I asked if ICE was making any plans, apart from the facility negotiations, in anticipation of opening this facility. She indicated that discussions were taking place with area Sheriff’s Offices and that these steps were standard in advance of opening any detention center. She indicated that there is strong coordination between detention centers and Sheriff’s Offices. I asked if those arrangements carried added costs to Sheriff’s Offices and she indicated that they did but was not immediately at liberty to specify. In fact, Director Steel gave me the impression that the news report of some months ago, in which ICE says that they had selected SW Ranches as their preferred location for a new detention center in South Florida, is not a typical announcement. I was left with the impression that this announcement, while accurate, may not have been handled in accordance with agency protocol. ICE does not talk much in public seems to be a fair way to sum up their community affairs approach.
My overall impression of the meeting based on our exchance is as follows.
ICE is a traditional federal law enforcement agency. It is not their practice to engage very much in community affairs. Like most federal law enforcement agencies, they are a paramilitary operation that runs on strict rules and procedures. ICE has a long tradition of doing things in a certain way. It was clear to me that ICE is actively engaged in advancing their mission to establish a detention center within the Town of SW Ranches. It was underscored to me several times that they do not discuss such things before a decision to proceed has been made, and that her discussion with me about this matter constituted a rare exception. ICE places mission above other considerations, and Director Steel left me with the impression that while mission does come first, her agency does regret that there should be any level of resident concern about them possibly coming to the area to open a detention center. It is clear to me that the agency is decidedly moving forward with their plans in SW Ranches but simply refraining from making that announcement at this time.
Above all else, she left me with a clear impression that they have a mission to manage. That they are executing that mission in accordance with their internal protocols. That more specific responses to my questions could not be expected until after they had announced their decision to build a detention center at that location. Meetings betwen ICE and local residents to discuss facilities located by ICE are rarely held. However, at my specific request, she has tasked her colleagues with reviewing our request for a meeting and will respond to me shortly. Director Steel stated her regret that any residents should be concerned with the prospect of this facility. She was aware of the State Prison located next to ICE’s proposed location. She is aware that the State Prison has been a good neighbor within the community. She believes that residents should experience similar results with a detention center. I explained that residents want to hear about the facility directly from ICE and that they consider it disrespectful that such a meeting has not yet taken place. She repeated that she would respond to my request for a meeting soon.
We met for approximately 45 minutes. Once I receive Director Steel’s response I will disclose it publicly. Please share this report with your email list for wide distribution.
Angelo Castillo, Commissioner
City of Pembroke Pines