People in Waterloo are trying to figure out what sort of operation federal officials are conducting in town. This week, the Department of Homeland Security took-over and sealed-off the grounds of the National Cattle Congress on the west side of Waterloo.
Thursday night, our crew went to investigate, but security guards told them to stay across the street from the property. Our camera caught pictures of elaborate ventilation systems going into the buildings. There were dozens of cars coming in and out with license plates from surrounding states, and even as far away as Georgia and Texas.
A guard at the gate told us they are preparing for training exercises, but a Homeland Security spokesman would not confirm that. Many people in Waterloo believe the site is being transformed into a detention center. People in the Latino community fear it will be used in a mass immigration raid.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hook and it’s basically the same question. Is there going to be a raid? What’s going on?,” says Mario Basurto with El Centro Latinoamericano.
A spokesperson for Governor Culver says the federal government made the governor’s office aware of the situation, but they could not offer any comment.
Our Guess – It Might Have Something To With This Training Exercise
Normal operations on the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds have been suspended for most of May as the federal government has leased out virtually the entire facility for a training exercise, NCC general manager Doug Miller said Saturday.
Miller said he could release few details. But activity on the NCC fairgrounds was apparent Saturday, as contractors installed massive generators adjacent to many buildings on the NCC fairgrounds and windows of many of the buildings were covered up, blocking views of any work going on inside. A number of large mobile home-size trailers also have taken up residence on the site in the past several weeks.
Miller said the federal government is leasing the fairgrounds through May 25 under an agreement approved by the NCC board. He and others close to NCC said no entity has leased out the entire fairgrounds for that long a period.
He said it is his understanding that access to the NCC fairgrounds will be restricted beginning Monday, except for next weekend’s Cedar Falls High School prom at Electric Park Ballroom.
Miller said he has primarily been dealing with the U.S. General Services Administration on the arrangements, and that his physical facilities staff have been cooperating with federal officials on logistics and setup for the exercise.
Miller said that, other than GSA, he could not identify which agencies are involved in the exercise. But an individual on site Saturday who identified himself as an employee of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement referred inquiries to ICE officials in Minneapolis, who could not immediately be reached Saturday.
Miller also was referring inquiries to federal officials in Cedar Rapids, and NCC board member Tunis Den Hartog said it was his understanding the Federal Emergency Management Agency was involved.
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This article was posted: Saturday, May 10, 2008 at 10:52 am