Immigration detention center on Terminal Island deemed unsafe again

Homeland Security Department report says ICE moved back in and processed immigrants at unsafe detention center

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stopped using a former immigrant detention center on Terminal Island after an internal review found the agency shouldn't be operating there because the facility is unsafe.

The agency evacuated the San Pedro Service Processing Center, which had housed hundreds of immigrant detainees, in 2007. It had been found to have a number of safety problems, including a faulty fire alarm and sprinkler system.

A year later, although the problems hadn't been corrected, a team of ICE officials moved back into the building, according to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General.

The report found that agents were also processing immigrants at the facility, despite "urgent life safety issues that pose an immediate or potential danger." It called on ICE to suspend operations at the facility immediately.

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the agency, says it will not be used again until the safety issues have been fixed and "the facility has been deemed appropriate for occupancy."

Most recently, she said, the facility has served as the headquarters of the multiagency Border Enforcement Security Task Force, which targets smuggling and other illicit operations in the sea along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Immigrant detainees have not been housed long-term at the facility, Kice said, although occasionally criminal suspects arrested in connection with drug smuggling attempts were transported there for initial processing before being turned over to the U.S. Marshals Service.

ICE's detention practices have previously come under fire. On Monday, after lawyers found problems at a detention center in Artesia, N.M., the agency opened a new detention center in Dilley, Texas, to house women and children who crossed the border illegally.

Twitter: @katelinthicum

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