Laura Ashley Powell
Many local regions around the United States are rejecting or ending contracts with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), despite the possible millions of dollars they could bring in through those contracts.
Many municipalities are currently debating whether to cooperate with ICE, particularly areas in need of money and potential jobs. Recently, ICE has been under scrutiny for holding undocumented immigrants in detention centers while they await hearings to determine whether they can stay in the country. ICE has had a key role in enforcing the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy, which results in children being separated from their parents since children cannot legally be held in the same centers as their parents.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in an interview with PolitiFact, detaining adults who have committed a federal misdemeanor, which would include illegally entering the country, has been a longstanding policy. However, until the introduction of the “Zero Tolerance” policy, which strictly enforces this DHS regulation, undocumented immigrants were rarely detained or charged with a misdemeanor, and therefore not separated from their children.
As a result of major pushbacks to the policy, Trump gave an executive order that would keep children detained with their parents, though this violates another longstanding policy that forbids children from being in jail. Part of the executive order tells Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ask Congress to overrule the policy that forbids children from being held in jail with their parents.
To accommodate the thousands of children as well as adults being detained together, ICE has created contracts with areas all over the United States to house these immigrants in local jails and other detainment centers. They also have contracts for cities to build more centers for the immigrants to stay in. Additionally, the military and other departments have had to help accommodate the large influx of families being detained.
Many of these local officials, including those in Sacramento County in California, have moral reservations about receiving money from facilitating these detention centers. The county was being paid $6.6 million by ICE and DHS annually to hold undocumented immigrants in a correctional facility, but the county officials voted in early June to discontinue the contract.
Phil Serna, a Sacramento County supervisor who voted to end the contract, stated that ICE “…came down to an administration that is extremely hostile to immigrants. I didn’t feel we should be part of that.”
Many children separated from their parents before Trump’s executive order still have not been reunited with their families, so many facilities are solely holding minors.
Sylvester Turner, the Mayor of Houston, Texas, is urging Texas organization Southwest Key to cancel plans to hold immigrant minors in a former warehouse in downtown Houston. This organization has received over $1 billion in federal contracts. They already hold dozens of children in an old Walmart.
“I do not want to be an enabler in this process,” said Turner in an interview with the New York Times.” There comes a time when we must draw a line, and for me, the line is with the children.”