Illinois County Gains $10M Detaining Undocumented Immigrants
A northwest Illinois county’s decades-old deal with the federal government to detain immigrants living in the country illegally will bring in $10 million this year, according to records.
McHenry County entered into the bed-rental program with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the early 2000s after the federal government agreed to give the county about $7 million toward a jail expansion, the Chicago Sun-Times reports . The contract was originally meant to end after 10 years in 2015, but county officials renewed the contract in 2014.
ICE pays $95 per inmate per day, according to the contract. The program will bring in more than $10 million by the end of 2018, up from $8.3 million last year, officials said.
McHenry held an average of 233 inmates daily in the 2017 fiscal year, up from 167 in 2015, according to figures obtained by Detention Watch Network, a Washington D.C.-based group that advocates against immigration detention.
The jail’s daily average population through Oct. 1 was 270 people, according to ICE figures.
“We still have all kinds of available capacity in our jail, so we’re utilizing that capacity in a manner that makes revenue sense for us,” McHenry County administrator Peter Austin said.
Critics say the partnership is part of the weaponization and monetization of ICE detention.
Carlos Acosta, who was recently elected to the county board, questioned whether the county wants to be involved in such a partnership even as President Donald Trump focuses on stopping illegal immigration.
“It’s been a divisive issue because it raises the question, is there a profit motive when the county sheriff is making traffic stops?” Acosta said, referring to stops that could lead to the arrest and detention of an undocumented immigrant.
The county also makes additional money for transporting detainees, said Lt. Mike Lukas of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office. The county was paid $450,000 for the transportation last year, which went into the general fund to pay for a variety of county services.
“It’s beneficial to the county because there’s jobs that wouldn’t be here if we weren’t doing this,” Lukas said.
Acosta said that while the county relies on the funds the program generates, there should be greater oversight. He said he’ll push to get more information on what conditions are like in the facility.
“I have to be cognizant of the fiscal impact of terminating any program, but again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with at least asking those questions and getting data on that,” he said.