The city of Portland will hold a hearing Wednesday into the siting of a detention center for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the South Waterfront area.
Meanwhile, federal authorities have launched an investigation into how plans for the building were leaked to an Oregon blogger.
The immigration agency, or ICE, is trying to move to an existing building in Southwest Portland.
But some neighbors oppose the idea, saying it’s a jail — because people could be held there for up to 12 hours for processing and fingerprinting. Portland blogger, Jack Bogdanski, put the building plans up on the web, but took them down recently after a request from the feds. Chelsea Turnbull is with the General Services Administration, which oversees federal buildings
“Because we have some concerns about the safety and security of our federal employees and of the public, with having that information out in the public domain, we asked him to take those off the blog,” Turnbull said.
Turnbull says her agency asked the inspector general to investigate how the plans were leaked. Blogger Jack Bogdanski says someone sent the information to him in January.
“I got an e-mail from someone who was obviously using a pseudonym. I don’t even still have the e-mail. It was a woman’s name. A single first name. But I don’t remember the name. It looked pretty authentic, so I ran it on my blog, with the caveat that I couldn’t guarantee it’s authenticity. Of course it turned out that it was authentic,” Bogdanski said.
The plans showed holding cells, screening areas, a closed circuit video room, all the hallmarks Bogdanski says, of a jail.
The city’s Bureau of Development Services, which oversees building codes, is holding a land use hearing Wednesday to decide if the former Bank of America building is suitable. Bogdanski says he’s not too worried about being asked to take the plans down, he’s just pleased there will now be a hearing.
“I don’t have a lot of time to fight about this. Blogging is my hobby. It is not my day job. And I think the point has been made, the city is processing this under a higher standard of land use,” Bogdanski said.
Wednesday’s hearing will focus on three main things, says Ross Caron with the city’s Bureau of Development Services: Does the appearance of the building fit in the area, is it safe to have a detention center in the neighborhood and is there good access for such a building.
“A detention facility is not allowed by right and requires a conditional use review process. If the hearings officers says that they’ve met those three approval criteria, then it would be approved for that location. They would still need to go through the building permit process, but the land use permit process will have been decided,” Caron said.
Jim Davis is with the South Portland Neighborhood Association. He says a jail simply doesn’t fit the area.
And, he adds, concerned neighbors have hardly any information about what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is proposing.
“We don’t know what the heck the facility looks like. because the applicant has not provided us with any floor plans. The only thing I know for sure is that they’re going to be herding 10 to 15 people a day into a bank vault that was designed to be air tight,” Davis said.
Jack Bogdanski will talk about his blog and his brush with the federal government Wednesday morning on OPB’s Think Out Loud.