ICE holds in Moffat County Jail not impacted by state legislation
A state immigration law signed by Gov. Jared Polis last week won’t affect an area contract with federal authorities to hold immigrants suspected of being in the U.S. illegally in the Moffat County Jail.
Polis signed House Bill 1124 Tuesday, May 28, preventing a peace officer or probation officer from complying with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement civil detainers in Colorado.
Civil detainers are commonly requested by ICE up to 48 hours past an immigrants release date if ICE believes they’re in the country illegally — which is a civil rather than criminal offense. Between October 2011 and August 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union said ICE issued more than 8,700 detainer requests in Colorado.
On any given day, the 101-bed Moffat County Jail might house several ICE holds or none at all. But the number of immigrant holds — and subsequently the amount of income generated at the sheriff’s office from those holds — have been rising.
According to data from Moffat County Sheriff KC Hume, in 2014 the sheriff saw some $4,400 in income from ICE holds based on a rate of $57.86 per day. By 2018, that revenue had doubled to more than $10,000.
Data demonstrates about $1,400 in income for the first month of 2019 as the Craig Press continues to follow additional ICE holds booked into the Moffat County Jail the first half of this year.
Though Hume said he was unsure of any correlation, the two years after Donald Trump’s election to the presidency saw almost 100 immigrant holds in the Moffat County Jail each year — the highest number of immigrants held by the jail in the last five years requested by the Craig Press.
Moffat County has contracted with the federal government in this way since at least 2003 and has avoided many legal ramifications suffered by others since the Moffat County jail is used by ICE to hold detainees already in ICE custody until they can be transported to their next destination, usually near Denver.
“ICE brings us those folks that they have in their custody,” Hume said Monday. “We house them temporarily under our contract then they take them away. But we don’t hold people based on their immigration status.”
Hume has never honored ICE’s civil detainer requests.
“We’ve never honored detainers here in Moffat County,” Hume said.
Hume said their contract is valuable and, along with other similar contracts at the jail, could help put some extra cash in the county’s coffers.
“It’s a contract that generates some revenue,” Hume said. “It offsets some costs of the operations of the Moffat County Jail and it lessens the burden to the taxpayer.”
Hume said Colorado’s ACLU has contacted his office in the past.
“Every once in a while… ACLU would inquire about the process,” Hume said. “Kind of for their own interest, wanting to understand why or how individuals were being housed in the Moffat County Jail.”
The new state legislation last week was met with criticism from ICE officials, who called the new law “dangerous” and said it could lead to violence.
“By signing Colorado’s House Bill 1124, the state has codified a dangerous policy that deliberately obstructs our country’s lawful immigration system, protects serious criminal alien offenders, and undermines public safety,” ICE said in a May 29 statement. “Criminals will now be returned to the streets throughout Colorado. This is an irresponsible law that will undoubtedly have tragic future consequences at the expense of innocent citizens, lawful residents, and visitors.”
Some sheriffs in Colorado have complied with ICE’s civil detainer requests over the years, but that landed them in hot water with the ACLU after two immigrants tried to post bond but were told they would not be released. The Colorado ACLU filed a lawsuit in February 2018 against Sheriff Bill Elder of El Paso County and Teller County on behalf of the two individuals. A District Judge later agreed with the ACLU in December 2018.
“Federal immigration authorities cannot order, and are not ordering, Sheriff Elder to hold inmates beyond the term of their release,” District Judge Eric Bentley said. “They are merely requesting that he do so. Whether he does so is his choice, and it is he who is legally responsible for the decision.”