Immigration Law

ICE detention center proposed for rural Wyoming town with no immigration attorneys

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A private company has proposed to build an immigration detention center outside Evanston, Wyoming—a town that reportedly has no immigration lawyers and is more than an hour away from the nearest immigration court in Salt Lake City.

The jail proposal is from the Management & Training Corporation, a Utah contractor that manages private prisons and Job Corps centers, and has a negative history.

Indeed, there are few immigration lawyers in the state of Wyoming, WyoFile reports. Immigration law is complicated and it’s much harder to get representation when someone has been put in detention, Suzan Pritchett, a University of Wyoming law professor, told the online news outlet.

“It takes experienced and dedicated immigration attorneys and advocates to be able to get inside an immigration detention center, to be able to screen for people who might have valid claims” for asylum or hardship, she said. “Those are pretty diffuse, complicated legal concepts that someone sitting in a detention center isn’t necessarily going to be able to understand.”

There are immigration lawyers in Utah, the article notes. Making the drive to Evanston, which is about 165 miles round trip, would likely increase legal costs for detainees, says Kate Barber, a Salt Lake City immigration attorney.

Evanston is in Uinta County, which has approximately 20,000 residents, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. Officials there believe the private jail will bring in jobs and tax dollars, according to the article, and both the county commission and the city council passed resolutions in favor of the facility during the summer.

But some of the state’s residents expressed concern with MTC’s history. It’s being sued for discriminating against tribal members at its Wyoming Job Corps center, according to the article. And at a New Mexico immigration facility the business operates, the Department of Homeland Security recently found that the structure didn’t meet various federal standards, including misuse of solitary confinement and failure to properly clean bathrooms.

“Someone could go days or weeks even without having access to the outdoors,” Melissa Lopez, a Texas immigration lawyer who frequently visited the southern New Mexico facility, told the Las Cruces Sun-News.

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