County explains why jail was used for ICE detentions
Sometimes, for elected officials, private communications become public.That’s what seems to have happened when Garfield County Commissioner John Martin appeared at Thursday’s Glenwood Springs City Council meeting. He read an e-mail that Mayor Bruce Christensen expected to remain private regarding the county jail.”My intent was to remind John that something he had promised to me and others was not being adhered to,” Christensen said in an interview Friday. “I have no idea why Commissioner Martin decided to make a large public issue out of a private communication.”Christensen wrote in the e-mail that he previously raised concerns about constructing a jail several times the size and capacity of neighboring county jails in the heart of the city. He wrote that a commissioner promised the jail would house only Garfield County inmates, but Christensen also raised concerns that revenue would be generated by housing inmates from other jurisdictions.His suspicions seemed to be confirmed by a newspaper article about federal officials pulling a contract to detain suspected illegal immigrants at the jail, he wrote. The article said the contract generated $300,000 for the jail last year, but probably only ended up netting around $40,000 after expenses.Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pulled its contract to house its detainees at the county jail because of the jail’s policy to use Tasers.Christensen wrote that the contract represented a “betrayal” of the community and asked for clarification and thoughts about the jail.Martin said it is true that the jail had the ICE contract. It allowed local criminals to be held who had federal immigration-related charges attached, he said, and the revenue the contract brought “was a near wash” after expenses.”Without that contract, the alternatives may be passing on the cost to the municipalities and agencies including cost of transportation to an approved facility,” Martin said.Christensen said he wrote the e-mail asking for clarification as a private citizen from his private account and without signing his name as mayor. He has since learned that the sheriff controls the jail and commissioners did not have the authority to promise that no profit would be made from housing inmates from other jurisdictions, he added.At the meeting Sheriff Lou Vallario said that any jail issues could be brought up with him. He said he’s tried to operate the jail in accordance with the county’s expectations, and the ICE contract was never about revenue.”It’s not a Holiday Inn. We’re not renting bed space,” Vallario said. “It was about helping ICE agents on the street. They have no facilities to put people in.”Outside the meeting chambers, Vallario said pulling the contract with the jail will make it more difficult for an already strained ICE to do its job. Stories have circulated involving Colorado State Patrol troopers detaining suspected illegal immigrants then letting them go when ICE doesn’t show up, Vallario said, but “it happens every day in every county.”He said ICE has less than 400 of its own beds for all of Colorado and Wyoming, so it moves detainees around like a “shell game” to various county jails. Without the Garfield County Jail, there’s even less room.”That’s not exactly solving the immigration problem in this country,” Vallario said.Vallario said that borders must be secured to prevent people from recycling back into the country, and that the immigration debate must be solved on a national level first. Local county deputies and police have no authority or training to take suspected illegal immigrants into custody because those laws fall under federal jurisdiction, he said.Contact Pete Fowler: 945-8515, ext. 16611 firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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