Immigration and Customs Enforcement – ICE – is looking to lease beds at the Jerome County Jail to hold immigration suspects. The back and forth between ICE and Jerome County Commissioners has garnered a lot of attention and controversy.
The proposal to lease the 50 beds at the Jerome facility has been floating around since at least January. In documents prepared by ICE's regional office in Salt Lake City, the Jerome County Jail is described as an ideal location that could hold detention hearings and possibly accommodate more than the 50 beds currently being looked at. However, with ICE and the Sheriff’s Office hammering out details of the arrangement, county commissioners say they’ll take no further action until they see a contract.
The Times News reports the ICE lease could generate over a million dollars a year for Jerome County. While the jail was built bigger than necessary to facilitate leasing out beds, the proposal to have ICE as a client has led to unease among the region's Hispanic community. Opponents to the proposal say ICE's presence would lead to a disruption in the local economy if a crackdown on undocumented immigrants were to sweep the region. Both the dairy industry and civil rights groups have lobbied against the proposal.
The county commissioners are holding off on making a decision for or against leasing the beds to ICE until the terms of the deal are known.
A review of written correspondence to the commissioners by the Times News found, as of July 21, 71 people expressed their views in writing – of those, 53 opposed the contract with ICE and 18 were in favor of it.
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