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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Council Punts, but Leans Toward South Waterfront Immigrant "Detention Center"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 5:20 PM

The feds wants a processing facility for immigrants in this project, at 4310 SW Macadam.
  • The feds wants a "processing" facility for immigrants in this project, at 4310 SW Macadam.
A vexing issue expected to be settled this afternoon—whether the city council should overturn a hearings officer's decision banning the U.S. Immigration and Customs from sticking a detention center inside a South Waterfront building it plans to lease—will have to wait until next month.

But there were strong hints the federal government and Lindquist Development Company, the owner of the property at 4310 SW Macadam will receive the council's blessing—with some conditions—when the issue returns for another hearing at 3 pm October 5.

The facility was rejected in August by a hearings officer who worried immigration authorities might endanger neighbors, including a charter school, by occasionally releasing detainees into the neighborhood. That remains a big concern, prompting parents to trot their small children into the council chambers and serve as emotional props.

Since then, however, the government has offered to release detainees only to relatives and lawyers, or otherwise drive them to public transit stops with fares in hand. The building's owner also says it has obtained the assent of the police bureau.

Commissioners signaled they were open to the new release plan. And it's expected at the October meeting—"Don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory," Mayor Sam Adams told the property owner's lawyer, at one point—that they will allow the project to move forward provided Lindquist and the feds provide some kind of written statement confirming the new release policy. No written policy, and the approval would be yanked.

So why the delay? I'll spare the details, but say this: In the midst of a long discussion, one that mostly re-argued, again and again, old points, a gnarly procedural dispute arose over whether opponents and proponents might have submitted "new evidence" in the case since the hearing officer made his decision in August. That's a no-no, according to the byzantine laws governing Portland land use.

Hoping to keep things as clean as possible, commissioners instead decided to allow any potential new evidence but allow another seven days for rebuttals. And then, really and truly, the record would close and they'd make a decision.

One thing to note: Even if the council says yes, because the feds are leasing the space, the city still has some control over what happens with it. If the feds had decided to buy the building outright, the feds could do whatever they wanted.

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