Arun­del pon­ders hold­ing ICE de­tainees

U.S. seeks jail space for those await­ing de­por­ta­tion

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Pamela Wood

Anne Arun­del County Ex­ec­u­tive Steve Schuh sees us­ing his county’s jails to hold un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as a win for ev­ery­one.

Ev­ery ju­ris­dic­tion in the United States should be help­ing to de­fend the na­tion’s bor­ders, the Repub­li­can says. And the money that U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment would pay Arun­del to fill its un­used jail cells with short-term de­tainees could pro­vide steady rev­enue for the county.

“We have a large num­ber of un­oc­cu­pied beds; en­tire wings of our jails are avail­able for use by oth­ers, such as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” Schuh said. “We be­lieve that there may be an op­por­tu­nity for Anne Arun­del County to more than cover its costs.”

Ad­vo­cates for im­mi­grants, mean­while, are urg­ing the county not to in­volve it­self in the di­vi­sive na­tional de­bate over im­mi­gra­tion. Once lo­cal gov­ern­ments get in­volved with ICE, they warn, un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants be­come sus­pi­cious that lo­cal po­lice are en­forc­ing fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion law — and grow wary of call­ing of­fi­cers when they need help.

“Lo­cal gov­ern­ment needs to take care of lo­cal needs, and fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment is a fed­eral is­sue,” said El­iz­a­beth Alex, the Bal­ti­more re­gional di­rec­tor of the ad­vo­cacy group CASA. “We re­ally want folks to call the po­lice and trust the po­lice.”

ICE, an arm of the fed­eral Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, has tens of thou­sands of un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants in cus­tody at any given time. Some are wait­ing to have their sta­tus de­ter­mined; oth­ers are wait­ing to be de­ported.

The agency doesn’t have enough space to hold them all, so it seeks ar­range­ments with lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

Of­fi­cials in Arun­del say ICE has been ap­proach­ing them for years. In Schuh, the agency fi­nally has a ne­go­ti­at­ing part­ner. Of­fi­cials now are dis­cussing hold­ing ICE de­tainees at the Ord­nance Road Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in Glen Burnie.

Coun­ties in Mary­land that have held de­tainees for ICE say the deal is good. The agency has paid lo­cal gov­ern­ments here around $90 per de­tainee per day (the num­ber varies ac­cord­ing to terms ne­go­ti­ated in each ju­ris­dic­tion).

Worces­ter County might be ICE’s most en­thu­si­as­tic part­ner in Mary­land. At the Snow Hill jail, un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants typ­i­cally make up 45 per­cent of the in­mate pop­u­la­tion. That has meant nearly $5 mil­lion in pay­ments to the county an­nu­ally — enough to cover two-thirds of the cost of run­ning the fa­cil­ity.

Howard, Car­roll and Fred­er­ick coun­ties have also par­tic­i­pated.

“There was a need. We had a re­source to meet the need” said Jack Ka­vanagh, di­rec­tor of cor­rec­tions for Howard County. “It ben­e­fits the agen­cies in­volved, and the county ben­e­fits be­cause we were able to gen­er­ate rev­enue from it.”

But some Arun­del of­fi­cials urge cau­tion. Democrats on the County Coun­cil have in­tro­duced a res­o­lu­tion ex­press­ing op­po­si­tion to a deal; a vote is ex­pected next month.

“I just wanted to put the brakes on and have a pub­lic dis­cus­sion about it,” said Coun­cil­man Chris Trum­bauer, an An­napo­lis Demo­crat. “I’m re­ally con­cerned about hous­ing hu­man be­ings es­sen­tially as a com­mod­ity.”

Arun­del would make some empty beds at Ord­nance Road avail­able to hold low-risk im­mi­gra­tion de­tainees, ac­cord­ing to Terry Koko­lis, the county’s su­per­in­ten­dent of de­ten­tion fa­cil­i­ties. The county uses the 540-bed fa­cil­ity to hold lo­cal of­fend­ers who have been sen­tenced to 18 months or less.

“As ste­wards of the county bud­get, we should lis­ten to th­ese types of things,” Koko­lis said. “Eval­u­at­ing all of the pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives of such a con­tract, the pos­i­tives far ex­ceed any neg­a­tives.”

Nei­ther Koko­lis nor ICE would say how many de­tainees the county would hold or how much the fed­eral gov­ern­ment would pay.

ICE has an av­er­age of 34,000 peo­ple in cus­tody at any given time. They are housed in ICE fa­cil­i­ties, in state and lo­cal jails un­der con­tract, and in pri­vately run pris­ons. A spokes­woman said the agency strives for “safe and hu­mane” con­di­tions.

“ICE uses th­ese var­i­ous mod­els to meet the agency’s de­ten­tion needs while achiev­ing the high­est pos­si­ble cost sav­ings for the tax­payer,” spokes­woman Sarah Ro­driguez said.

Schuh said all lev­els of gov­ern­ment should “share in the re­spon­si­bil­ity of bor­der de­fense, of pro­vid­ing for the se­cu­rity of our bor­ders.”

And if the county can ne­go­ti­ate a con­tract that brings in ex­tra money, all the bet­ter.

County spokesman Owen McEvoy likened the pro­gram to ac­cept­ing fed­eral grants or as­sist­ing in fed­eral crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Car­roll County took ICE de­tainees for more than a decade, un­til it ran out of space.

“If I had the op­por­tu­nity to do it again, I would,” said Ge­orge Hardinger, war­den of the Car­roll County De­ten­tion Cen­ter.

“It was a win-win for the county,” he said. “We had beds at times and we could fill them, and it would pro­duce rev­enue for the county. When we didn’t have the beds, we could ta­per it down.”

Howard has held im­mi­gra­tion de­tainees at its Jes­sup de­ten­tion cen­ter since the mid-1990s. The county also holds de­tainees for the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice.

Howard will re­ceive about $1.2 mil­lion in ICE pay­ments this year. The money goes into the county’s gen­eral fund.

Arun­del County Coun­cil mem­bers who op­pose hous­ing ICE de­tainees ac­knowl­edge there’s lit­tle the coun­cil can do to stop a deal — Schuh has the au­thor­ity to make the deal him­self. The res­o­lu­tion to be con­sid­ered Nov. 7 is es­sen­tially sym­bolic — and it’s not clear if there are four votes on the seven-mem­ber coun­cil to pass it.

“I’m very cau­tious in­volv­ing our fa­cil­i­ties and our per­son­nel with any­thing that in­volves im­mi­gra­tion,” said Coun­cil­man Peter Smith, a Sev­ern Demo­crat whose dis­trict in­cludes the Ord­nance Road jail. “That’s a fed­eral is­sue.”

Coun­cil­man Jerry Walker, a Gam­brills Repub­li­can, agrees with Schuh that it’s im­por­tant to crack down on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. But he’s frus­trated that the county ex­ec­u­tive kept the coun­cil in the dark about a pos­si­ble deal.

Coun­cil Chair­man Derek Fink, a Pasadena Repub­li­can, thinks the con­tract is a good idea if the num­bers work out.

“I don’t sup­port il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion,” he said, “and I’m fine sup­port­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.”

Schuh said he won’t be de­terred by ob­jec­tions from coun­cil mem­bers. He said they have no busi­ness in­ter­fer­ing in con­tracts, which are the purview of the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

And the county ex­ec­u­tive doesn’t buy the coun­cil mem­bers’ con­cerns.

“I think those are gen­er­ally cover sto­ries for their real op­po­si­tion, which is they don’t be­lieve in en­forc­ing Amer­ica’s im­mi­gra­tion laws,” Schuh said. “They be­lieve that there should be no penal­ties and no ac­tion taken against peo­ple who come into our coun­try il­le­gally.”

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