When a 25,000 square-foot shell of a building outside the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport was up for grabs, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officials jumped at the chance to lease it.
ICE/DRO imagined this airport hangar transformed into an ideal place for processing illegal aliens, carrying out administrative duties, and most importantly, an area for detainees to wait for flights to their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador.
Thus, the summer of 2009 became a season of hard hats, hammers and drywall as the building underwent major renovations before emerging as the new Arizona Removal Operations Coordination Center (AROCC), which was celebrated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 16, 2010. Besides ICE/DRO officials and law enforcement personnel, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard and Mayor Art Sanders, Town of Queen Creek and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority Board of Directors chairman, attended the event.
The refurbished facility is able to accommodate 79 ICE employees and 157 detainees. The AROCC is highly functional for the Phoenix Field Office. The facility boasts one large and two small conference rooms each equipped with video teleconferencing technology and SMART boards for meetings and training. The staging side of the building is equipped with video surveillance equipment as well as a touch-screen panel that controls the doors within the secure area.
The AROCC is the last stop for illegal aliens who have violated U.S. immigration policies and national laws to enter and/or remain in the United States. They then board an ICE-chartered flight coordinated by the Flight Operations Unit (FOU). The FOU supports DRO's 24 field offices by managing flights to the southern tier of the United States, Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America.
"ICE's goal has been to fly out persons who are here illegally as quickly as possible after a judge's final order of deportation or removal," said Deputy Assistant Director of DRO's Removal Management Division Mark Lenox at the AROCC ceremony. "This state-of-the-art facility in a critical area like Mesa in one of the busiest states in the union for alien removals is very important for my program and for ICE."
Phoenix Field Office Director Katrina S. Kane, said the facility "…recognizes the central role the Phoenix Field Office plays in restoring integrity to the nation's immigration system. The AROCC will enhance Arizona DRO's ability to support its growing law enforcement roles and responsibilities."
Strengthening the nation's capacity to detain and remove criminal and other deportable aliens is a key component of ICE's comprehensive strategy to deter illegal immigration and protect public safety. Read more about ICE's enforcement and removal priorities.