Trump immigration crackdown in Orange County: Sheriff demands added 120 ‘beds for feds’ for detainees
Posted by Debbie L. Sklar on May 9, 2017 in OC | 1,276 Views | Leave a response
The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to add 120 beds to rent to the federal government for immigration detainees, prompting several members of the audience to begin chanting “shame.”
Dozens of opponents of the move implored the supervisors to end the “beds for feds” contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with many claiming the county’s Theo Lacy jail has been cited for multiple issues related to denial of proper healthcare and serving moldy food.
As the board unanimously approved the upgrade to its contract with ICE, some audience members chanted “shame,” prompting Chairwoman Michelle Steel to briefly gavel the meeting so sheriff’s deputies could clear the room. Minutes later, the supervisors opted to meet privately to discussed closed-session items.
Many of the opponents of the contract upgrade cited a recent report from Homeland Security’s inspector general’s office stemming from a surprise inspection of Theo Lacy in November.
Issued raised as a result of the inspection included moldy shower stalls, garbage in cells, inoperable phones, housing of “high-risk” detainees in “less restrictive barracks-style housing” and vice versa, and failure to properly document complaints or grievances from detainees to ensure proper follow-up.
The inspector general’s report also stated that “detainees were being served, and reported being regularly served, meat that appeared to be spoiled.”
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens hotly contested the concern about expired food and even invited reporters along to inspect the facility.
Hutchens told supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting, “We have addressed all of (ICE’s) concerns. The statements about the food is incorrect. The food was fine, but we made the changes they requested.”
The sheriff also noted her jails are “regularly” inspected by ICE and other state regulators.
Supervisor Shawn Nelson said county officials have no jurisdiction over how immigration enforcement is conducted. All the county is doing is providing shelter for the federal government’s detainees, he said.
If the county did not provide the beds for local immigration detainees, they would likely be sent to more far-flung jails in San Bernardino County, San Diego and Bakersfield, sheriff’s Lt. Mike Peters said.
Nelson said it was “far more humane to keep people here” than in other ICE facilities further away because it’s easier on families to visit detainees.
“The issue we’re addressing is not should these people be detained,” Nelson said. “These are people who are already detained, and I look at this very simply — people in our local region can maintain their circumstances here while their legal issues are being addressed.”
The move boosts the capacity in Orange County’s jails from 838 to 958 beds through July 19, 2020.
The so-called “beds for feds” program started in 2010, at a time when the sheriff’s department was forced to do so much budget cutting that the extra revenue was perceived as a godsend.
The contract with the federal government was extended for another five years in July 2015.
ICE officials in February announced the federal agency would end its contract with Santa Ana to house detainees in the Santa Ana jail. It is not clear if that move was linked to the increase in the program with the county, but Lt. Lane Lagaret, a sheriff’s spokesman, said ICE approached the department about the increased need for beds.
From the program’s inception in August 2010 through the following June, the federal government paid $26.9 million to house immigration detainees in county jails. The county billed the federal government $33.3 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year, $29.5 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year, $22.8 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year and $31.3 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year.
County officials anticipate raking in about $5 million more if all the beds are rented.
Tom Dominguez, president of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, the union that represents District Attorney investigators and deputies, praised the expansion of the program.
“We are supportive of the proposed contract,” Dominguez said. “We have the beds, they have the money. That’s a good thing for Orange County taxpayers.”
—City News Service
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