Before Immigration and Customs Enforcement opens a facility in this building at 40 Manson Libby Road, state legislators want the federal law enforcement agency to share its plans for the building in a public session. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

SCARBOROUGH — The General Services Administration has been asked to stop Immigration and Custom Enforcement from moving to 40 Manson Libby Road until the community has time to learn more about the facility.

A primary concern is how the move of the ICE office from South Portland to the space in an industrial park off U.S. Route 1 will impact the Portland Veterans Center. The center, which provides counseling and other services to veterans at its current location on Stevens Avenue in Portland, is scheduled to also relocate to the Scarborough site this fall.

“There is some concern that ICE presence and activities at the site will negatively impact the immediate area, including the businesses co-located at the site, their patrons and local residents,” Congresswoman Chellie Pingree wrote in a March 2 letter to Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration.

“Further, there have been additional complaints from veterans who utilize the Vet Center who do not support an ICE facility adjacent to the newly relocated Vet Center,” Pingree said.

John Lavin, a Vietnam veteran from Gorham who receives services at the veterans center, including counseling for PTSD, is among those concerned about the relocation.

The Portland facility needs some maintenance work, he said, but he feels at home there.

“I go there because it is a place I feel comfortable,” he said.

That comfort would be lost, he said.

The vet center is being moved “into a place where some of the veterans are terrified to go,” he said.

Pingree wrote that she shares veterans’ concerns “that the presence of the ICE facility could deter non-citizen residents from seeking medical treatment at the Vet Center and that the presence of detained individuals at or transitioning to the ICE facility could be harmful to veterans diagnosed with trauma-induced mental health disorders.”

She acknowledged that the General Services Administration generally does not seek public comment about the location of facilities, but the outcry from this move and the location of another ICE office at One City Center in Portland “is indicative of serious and growing mistrust of this agency.”

Jessica Schiefer, a communications officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, said the organization does not have concerns “about being located near other federal government offices.”

“With more Veterans using our services than ever before, the Portland Vet Center has outgrown its current location,” she said in an email to the Forecaster. “That’s why this fall the Vet Center will re-locate to 40 Manson Libby Road, which is a (General Services Administration) managed property. This is more spacious location that will accommodate our growing client base and be more accessible to those with disabilities.”

The Portland Veterans Center is one of five veteran outreach centers across the state that offer readjustment counseling to combat veterans, as well counseling for military sexual trauma and bereavement. The center is different from the Portland Vet Health Clinic on Fore Street, which provides primary medical care.

“The people at the Vet Center were never consulted until the (General Services Administration) signed a contract. No one came through the door and said what effect would this have if we did this,” Lavin said.

Josh Soley, a representative of building owner AEY LLC, said the plans for the building, which are still in the works, include space for Veterans Affairs. He said he could not comment on other potential tenants and that move-in dates had not been set.

“We have signed a lease agreement with the VA and we are interested in getting them in there as soon as possible and design the space in a way that is most efficient for the people who need the services,” he said.

“The decision to move is final,” Schiefer said, “the lease has been signed and we look forward to serving active duty service members, veterans and their families at the new location this fall.”

Soley said he has not heard any concerns or complaints from veterans.

State Sens. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, and Linda Sanborn, D-Gorham, and Reps. Shawn Babine, D-Scarborough, Chris Caiazzo, D-Scarborough, and Andrew McLean, D-Gorham, have also put in writing their concerns about ICE’s relocation to Scarborough.

“As legislators representing this district, we have several concerns regarding this announcement. First and foremost is the need for more transparency regarding the process ICE uses to choose the location and the specific uses a facility like the one being proposed in Scarborough,” they wrote in a letter to Pingree and U.S Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King. “To date, little to no public information has been forthcoming from ICE.”

The facility, according to previous media reports, may include processing, fingerprinting and detaining people suspected of immigration violations.

The legislators asked Collins, King and Pingree to encourage ICE to hold public meeting in Scarborough to present its plans for the facility.

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