Friday, October 8, 2004

Column: Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) attempts quiet nationwide facility growth; includes Chattanooga, Knoxville, Brentwood

"The agency is in the process of building similar facilities in every region of the country. One of the reasons for the low-profile office in Knoxville is that a similar facility in Chattanooga caused a neighborhood uproar. There was a building permit request for an INS office. It sounded rather benign, but Councilman Jack Benson wanted to know why the feds were building an office in an expensive part of the suburbs rather than downtown near the jail."

"Further investigation and a look at the plans revealed detention cells and a weapons room. Benson called Congressman Zach Wamp, and the lid blew off. Wamp demanded a Government Accounting Office explanation and a public hearing. The Brainerd Road site was near a residential area, a daycare center, a church and a school. The facility has been moved to a commercial/manufacturing area. That the office in Knoxville was opened in total anonymity is astounding when you consider that a new taco stand usually requires a public hearing."

"If federal authorities pay lip service to local planning regulations, it is merely a courtesy, according to Dave Hill, Knoxville COO and also still director of the Metropolitan Planning Commission. Federal law supercedes state and local in these matters. He said MPC has no record of any such facility. The city does have a building permit for the site in the name of Curtis Investments. Curtis Investments is a Dallas-based firm that is building the ICE facility in Chattanooga. Evidently, in Knoxville, they did not make the mistake of using the INS on the permit."

"In addition to the INS office in Nashville, a quick response team facility is reportedly located in Brentwood, a posh suburb south of town."

"With the formation of the new Department of Homeland Security, ICE has become the second-largest investigative agency of the U.S. government. It has 20,000 agents. Within the past year they have deported 52,000 criminals and 40,000 illegal immigrants who are not criminals."

Metro Pulse (Knoxville)

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