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County will soon expand services for INS

Friday, January 23, 2004

CHARLESTON - Mississippi County will soon expand it's holding services for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

County commissioners said during their regular meeting Thursday that INS officials approved the vacant Missouri Baptist Children's Home in East Prairie Jan. 15 as a temporary facility for holding alien families detained by INS.

"These are not criminals - they're illegal aliens," said Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg.

Commissioner Homer Oliver said the type of facility they are discussing enables the INS to detain illegal aliens without splitting families up.

Commissioners declined to offer any specifics of the proposed contract with INS, but said INS has requested space for 60 people and advised their normal startup practices guarantee 95 percent occupancy during the first 120 days.

The rooms would be designed to hold three people each except for cases with children under the age of 7 who will room with their mother, according to commissioners.

Commissioners discussed eventually putting up a metal building with about 4,500-5,000-square-feet in space for the family INS detainees in Charleston. Blumenberg estimated the cost should run between $130,000 and $180,000, as keypad security system should be sufficient for the facility. "They don't have any place to go," said Blumenberg.

Oliver said the facility would not be like a jail, but would have a "residential atmosphere."

"They're needing something pretty quick," said Blumenberg.

Commissioners plan to visit a facility in Pennsylvania in late February to get a better idea of what is needed.

"It could be profitable," Blumenberg. "I'm kind of enthused about it."

Mississippi County has been holding INS prisoners in its detention center since October 1999, according to Don Chance, administrator.