Alamosa, Colorado is an isolated, tightly knit working-class town of just under 10,000 people in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. To those who know of it, Alamosa is known for the mysterious 1967 death of a horse by the name of Snippy in nearby Manassa, boxer Jack Dempsey (from nearby Hooper), and an alligator farm. The official tourism website touts the town as home to the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
If, however, you travel south on State Avenue (confusingly known to Mosans as ‘State Street’ despite there being an actual State Street on the northern end of town), past the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Scenic Railroad, to the southern end of State Avenue, where the lawns are increasingly sparse and the premises are increasingly industrial, you’ll find a landmark of a different kind.
At the junction of State Ave and 20th Street, you’ll find a building that could easily belong to a down-at-heel dentist’s or insurance agent’s office. However, this unprepossessing single-storey brick rectangle bears no sign to tell curious passers-by what goes on inside. Indeed, the only distinguishing marks visible from the outside of 1921 State Ave are a US flag and a distinct surplus of high barbed-wire fences.
This may seem a curious omission in today’s brand-conscious world, but the tenants of 1921 State Ave have no need of marketing. Indeed, they’re actively averse to it. They don’t need to attract custom because their ‘guests’ are dragged there in handcuffs.
1921 State Avenue is also known as the ‘Alamosa Hold Room’, one small link in the chain of concentration camps and intermediate holding pens operated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Yet More Glaring Inaccuracies in ICE FOIA Disclosures
As was discussed at some length in the first part of this series, ICE are notoriously secretive about the number and locations of their detention facilities. It has taken years of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation to obtain official lists, and, each time, despite ICE’s assurances to the contrary, the lists turn out to be incomplete. Other places of incarceration in the United States are at pains to make their presence known to all who approach. ICE, often as not, would rather people went about their business without realising that people are being held against their will just a few yards away.
‘Hold Room’ is ICE terminology for the smallest detention facilities, so called because they often comprise no more than a single room. According to the section 2.6 of ICE/ERO Performance-Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), Hold Rooms In Detention Facilities, hold rooms come in two sizes: small and large. ‘Small’ hold rooms are intended to hold up to 14 prisoners, whilst ‘large’ hold rooms are rated to hold 15 to 49. They have only the barest of amenities. In particular, ‘bunks, cots, beds and other sleeping apparatus' are not permitted in hold rooms, with exceptions permitted only for children as well as sick and pregnant detainees (section V(A)(5)). and, by regulation, are only to be used for the shortest stays. Of course, at ICE, regulations meant to protect the rights of immigrants tend to be honoured in the breach.
Although only a small number of incarcerated migrants and refugees might pass through any given hold room, hold rooms, like 'subfield offices', are essential to the smooth functioning of the deportation machine. In a country as large as the US, many places are not within easy driving distance of the larger ICE camps. As such, it would be impractical to deport people from many areas without some sort of intermediate facility to warehouse them and break up the journey.
Unlike the Blue Ash, OH facility discussed in the first part of this series, the Alamosa detention facility is actually included in the list of 1685 ICE detention facilities provided by ICE in Excel format in November 2017 in response to a FOIA request. The hard-won transparency is tempered in this case, however, by the fact that entry for the Alamosa Hold Room contains at least two significant inaccuracies. For one thing, the spreadsheet doesn’t even list the correct address of the Alamosa detention facility, placing it in 1921 State Street instead of 1921 State Avenue. For another, the 2017 FOIA spreadsheet gives 26 October 2012 as the ‘date of last use’ of the facility. According to the Transactional Records Clearinghouse (TRAC) operated by the Syracuse University that tracks ICE prisoner transfers, just over thirty people passed through the Alamosa Hold Room in 2015 (the most recent year for which figures are available), fully three years after the ‘date of last use' given in the ICE FOIA spreadsheet.
Although the street name discrepancy can (possibly) be explained by the fact that locals tend to refer to State Avenue as ‘State Street’ (despite there being an actual State Street on the north side of the town), it is rather more difficult to explain why ICE listed a facility in which people are known to have been incarcerated as recently as 2015 as having last been used in October 2012 in a spreadsheet that was generated in November 2017, three years after the most recent known use of the Alamosa Hold Room for incarceration purposes.
One is forced to wonder just how many of the other 1684 detention facility datasets included in ICE’s (incomplete) November 2017 disclosure contain such significant inaccuracies.
Hans-Jörg Hegerl, Possibly The Only ICE Detention Facility Owner Eligible for an IMDB Entry
The other facilities examined in this series are leased to the GSA by corporations, typically limited-liability corporations (LLCs) created for the sole purpose of holding title to the facility in question. The Alamosa Hold Room, on the other hand, is unique in two respects. For one thing, title to the facility is not held by a purpose-built LLC, but by an individual. For another, it is the only such known facility to be owned by a non-US person or entity.
The Alamosa Hold Room was leased to the GSA (lease no. LCO14461) on 11 May 2010, slightly more than nine months before the ‘date of first use’ listed in the November 2017 FOIA disclosure, by Hans-Jörg Hegerl of Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, for an annual rent of $101,573.63 for the first five years (starting 20 March 2010) and $99,192.19 for the remainder of the term of the lease, which runs until 19 March 2020.
Hegerl is a lawyer by profession, with bar admissions both in Düsseldorf and in New York, specialising in corporate restructuring and bankruptcy law at Advises, a partnership of lawyers, tax consultants, auditors, and management consultants based in Düsseldorf. He has advised major corporations on both sides of the Atlantic, including Nissan North America.
In addition to his corporate law practice, Hegerl is CEO of Medienparks NRW, and is listed as co-producer of the film Forget About Nick and president of the Lions Club, Köln-Hanse branch. From the steady stream of selfies against scenic backgrounds on his Instagram account, it can be seen that he travels extensively, including to the dunes of southern Colorado, not far from the detention centre for which he has been receiving roughly $100,000.00 a year in rent for the past nine years.
Unlike some GSA leases for ICE detention facilities, Hegerl’s contract does not mention detention, referring merely to 4,865 ANSI/BOMA square feet of ‘office and related space’. His only documented involvement in fitting out the facility for its current use is ‘[r]eplacement of existing carpet in the leased space, painting of the entire leased space, and installation of conduit in the processing area,' as noted in a Supplemental Agreement dated 2 December 2010.
In order to clarify the extent of his knowledge of the use to which his property is being put, Hans-Jörg Hegerl was reached by e-mail last week. To date, he has not offered any comment. To the extent that he may not have previously known that he is collecting substantial rent in order for his property to be used to detain migrants and refugees, he was made aware of this fact in an e-mail sent by me on the twelfth of this month.
Special thanks to Colorado Springs Antifascists for the photos and local knowledge.