FRESNO, Calif. - There are no indications on the outside the downtown building in Fresno is a step closer to jail or deportation for the undocumented. The public is not invited in, but Immigration Attorney Camile Cooke has seen clients there.
"There's a waiting room and a hallway and there's a little room where attorneys can visit their clients on the other side of the screen not unlike like a jail," said Cooke.
The building started out in 1999 as Butterfield's Downtown Brewery, but quickly went under and was taken over by the bank. Fresno Police, and then ICE moved in. Instead of bottles, there are holding cells, but nobody stays for long.
ICE Spokesman James Schwab told Action News:
"This site is not, nor will it become a detention center. Anyone arrested by ICE who is going to remain in the agency's custody for more than 12 hours will be transferred to a detention facility specifically equipped for that purpose."
There are several of those detention facilities around the state. But it is not always easy to find out where someone ends up when they leave the detention.
"Sometimes it can take days from the time they leave Fresno before we can figure out they are in Adelanto or Arizona or wherever since they are federal they can take them anywhere in the country," said Cooke.
It is kind of a black hole that the undocumented can fall into. Cooke says most who end up here have been on the ICE radar for a long time, for past crimes, or because they have been deported and come back illegally.
The current audit underway at packing houses and other businesses may not result in more detentions here.
"Because the employer has to post that ICE is showing up on a certain day people are just not showing up to work," said Cooke.
The ICE audits are simply like to push more undocumented underground.
"Most of them know they don't want to have a conversation with ICE," said Cooke.