City leaders react to possibility of new immigration detention center in Salt Lake City

Posted at 6:04 PM, Oct 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-19 09:57:19-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Trump administration is laying out plans to build more immigration jails across the country, and one could be in Utah.

A request for information from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration Customs Enforcement lists Salt Lake City along with St. Paul, Detroit, and Chicago, as potential immigration detention centers, despite the fact they're all sanctuary cities or cities that have expressed similar sentiments.

Salt Lake City spokesman Matthew Rojas says the initial response from the mayor was concern.

"We are a welcoming city, and we’ve gone on record as being very supportive of our immigrant communities here in Salt Lake," Rojas said.

The location associated with Salt Lake will reportedly house between 200 and 600 detainees and must be within 180 miles of an immigration court on Decker Lake Drive in West Valley City.

Regardless of what happens with this potential new facility, Salt Lake City Police Public Information Officer Greg Wilking says the department simply doesn't have the time to take on the job of immigration enforcement.

"We are not going to check people’s immigration status," he said. "We want to build trust in the community. We want to have relationships with people in the community that we’re serving."

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Salt Lake City, says a local detention facility could be beneficial if it gives the state an avenue to go after illegal drug cartel members.

"If that is something we can receive additional resources so we can address that, I would not call that vindictive, I would call that a welcomed relief and help," Hughes said.

With a lot of unanswered questions, the message to Salt Lake's immigration community remains the same.

"We want you to go to work," Rojas said. "We want you to go to school and, again, most importantly, if you see a crime or if you’re a victim of a crime, we want you to report that crime and we want you to feel comfortable enough with our police department and the city government to know we’ve got your back."

To be clear, this is just an information gathering procedure. ICE has not issued a request for proposal yet, which would be a more tangible step towards building a facility in Utah.

Responses to the government's request for information are due October 26th.