By: Amelia Bodge, Staff Writer
The opening of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in One City Center in Portland promotes activists to hold demonstrations in protest on October 14th.
The Department of Homeland Security agency which is commonly referred to as ICE has been the source of growing tensions in Maine and nationally. Problems have been arising as a response to the current administration’s treatment of migrants in custody. Customs and Border Patrol or CBP is the primary enforcement agency at the U.S borders, but ICE is the lead enforcer for the interior of the U.S.
The newly opened ICE office is on the fourth floor of One City Center in monument square in downtown Portland. The office will have one holding cell but will not be directly focusing on deportation. A spokesperson for the organization said the building will contain mostly administrative offices. It will contain offices for Homeland Security Investigations which is a component of ICE.
The main duties of HSI are to focus on crimes such as human trafficking, child exploitation, narcotics trafficking, transnational gang activity, terrorism, document and benefit fraud, and the illegal movement of people and trade according to U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement website.
ICE’s Removal and Enforcement Office is remaining at the current location on Gannett Drive in South Portland. Stated on their website both office buildings are managed by Dirigo Management Company.
The arrival of ICE in downtown comes after 400 migrants made their way to Portland over the summer. These migrants were primarily asylum-seekers from the African countries of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo as reported by The Boston Globe.
On Monday, October 14th protesters marched from Monument Square to the plaza in front of One City Center. Many of the protesters were chanting and holding signs that said “Abolish ICE,” “Portland Welcomes Immigrants,” and other sayings. Protesters also lined up with their signs along Congress Street in view of passing motorists.
“We were gathering to show that Maine welcomes immigrants and to say that we don’t condone how ICE is treating migrants” said Kota McKay, a political science major at USM who was at the protest Monday.
Nearly 100 protesters showed up and a petition was passed around to urge Dirigo Management to terminate their lease with ICE. Dirigo Management’s offices were closed the 14th and they have not immediately responded to the protests.
The permits for the office were approved on March 15 and the project is nearing completion.
Plans for the Portland office show a holding cell for detainees in the center of the offices that will be designed with suicide restraint features. The plans also show the office will be have a detainee interview room, detainee processing area, computer forensics lab, an undercover office, evidence room, ammunition and weapon storage, and other general office spaces. The waiting room will be separated from the offices by bulletproof glass. This information comes from The Portland Press Herald whose offices will neighbor the new ICE office.