In a development that is sure to generate debate in New Richmond, the city announced in a press release late Friday afternoon, April 5, that it has received a rezoning request from Immigration Centers of America to rezone a parcel of land west of the St. Croix Correctional Center to allow for the construction of a detention center through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Program. ICE is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security.

ICA, a privately owned corporation based in Virginia, operates at least one other detention facility in Farmville, Va. According to their website, ICA is "solely focused on providing exceptional detention and transportation services for the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Founded in 2008, ICA has established itself as one of the leading providers of civil immigration detention services in the nation. With a proven track record, ICA has been recognized as providing DHS with unmatched facilities that adhere to the highest standards of medical care, safety and recreation."

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The News reached out to New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne and ICA CEO Russell Harper for comment but had not heard back from either prior to press deadlines.

ICE was created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the former U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. ICE operates on an annual budget of approximately $6 billion and employs more than 20,000 law enforcement and support personnel in more than 400 offices in the United States and around the world.

The city of New Richmond plans to host a series of small group discussions at the Civic Center and various businesses and community organizations around town to discuss the proposed zoning amendments related to ICA's application ahead of a community conversation and a formal public hearing to be scheduled later in April.

"The focus of these meetings will be to discuss the issue of proposed zoning amendments and the community process which must be centered on dignity and respect regardless of opinion," said City Administrator Mike Darrow.

The city noted as part of the process moving forward, it will be providing information to ICA related to its zoning application in a timely manner. The city emphasized it is committed to keeping the process transparent.

For more information and questions related to ICA's request, or if your business or community group is interested in hosting a small group discussion, contact the city's information line at 715-243-0470.