Two Local Governments Show Very Different Paths on Housing Immigration Detainees
By David Jaroslav | June 15, 2018
When Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests illegal aliens, they have to house (“detain”) them somewhere while they’re in deportation proceedings. In some cases, it’s in facilities actually owned and run by ICE or other federal agencies, but more commonly it’s under contract, either with private companies or frequently with local jails. Two local governments have recently taken action that illustrates how differently detention contracts are being treated in different parts of the country: as a lightning-rod for lawbreaking political correctness, or as another tool in both fighting crime and economically benefiting local communities.
Sacramento County, California
Capital of the sanctuary state of California, it housed immigration detainees since 2013, in exchange for roughly $6.6 million a year.
Although a 2017 state law, Senate Bill (SB) 29, prohibits new detention contracts, it doesn’t terminate current ones, which can even be renewed. They just can’t be expanded to provide additional bed space.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, an opponent of the state’s pro-illegal immigration policies in general, has repeatedly defended and advocated for the detention contract with ICE. But on June 5, against the advice of both the Sheriff and their own staff, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted, 3-2, not to renew the contract. All immigration detainees will now have to be out of Sacramento County facilities by June 30.
It’s essentially a lose-lose proposition for everyone. First, the taxpayers of Sacramento County lose the income from the detention contract, meaning as Supervisor Sue Frost said when she voted against cancelling it, “[w]e’ll have to look into our discretionary funds and into our other programs to see what we have to cut to figure out how we’re going to pay for that. … It’s completely symbolic in nature. It doesn’t solve any part of the problem at all.”
And also, ironically enough despite recent shrieking about “separating families,” it means immigration detainees get to be housed somewhere further away. As an ICE spokesman pointed out, “[n]ow, instead of being housed close to family members or local attorneys, ICE may have to depend on its national system of detention bed space to place those detainees in locations farther away from Sacramento, reducing the opportunities for in-person family visitation and attorney coordination[.]” But three county supervisors apparently get to feel morally superior about it.
Bossier Parish, Louisiana
Meanwhile, in the Shreveport suburbs of Bossier Parish, the situation is practically a mirror opposite of Sacramento County. The sheriff’s office has had approval to house federal inmates in its jail for more than 20 years, but was first contacted by ICE specifically about housing immigration detainees about a year ago. Since then, things have accelerated rapidly.
The federal government pays the parish $62 a day to house an immigration detainee. By contrast, the state has been paying only $24.39 to house its inmates and that appears likely to drop to $19 a day due to its budget crisis. Unsurprisingly, Sheriff Julian Whittington has been moving state inmates out (180 of them) and immigration detainees in. The jail currently houses 102 immigration detainees, up from 54 within just the past few days, and estimates room for 240.
Sheriff Whittington describes providing immigration detention space as “part of national security.” And it’s a win-win: the parish brings in revenue from the contract, and ICE has more bed space in which to hold illegal aliens rather than having to “catch and release” them back into the community.