For each illegal immigrant warehoused [ooops I mean jailed] the federal government pays $90.00 a day.
These payments added $33 million to the budget of Bristol County’s Sheriff Hodgson:
Bristol and other cash-strapped county jails are increasingly embracing the immigration business, capitalizing on the soaring number of foreign-born detainees and the millions of federal dollars a year paid to incarcerate them. Bristol County alone has raked in $33 million since 2001, and has used the money to transform itself into a sprawling campus with a commissary, an ambulance communications center, and a “management accountability building” for regular meetings on jail operations.
Quite a stimulus to cash-strapped, economically depressed Bristol County.
These federal dollars help Suffolk County too – to the tune of $10 million a year, and using space that otherwise would go empty:
In the Suffolk County jail, 269 immigrants now fill Building 8, which was empty before 2003 because its open floor plan made it a security risk for the general prison population. Instead of having to remodel the new $20 million building, Sheriff Andrea Cabral began housing immigrants there, bringing in $10 million a year.
“The revenue that is generated from this has been a lifesaver for my budget,” Cabral said. “Otherwise the building would be empty, and I’d be struggling a lot more with some of the issues that we’ve had.”
In fact, Bristol Co. Sheriff Hodgson comes off sounding quite entreprenurial about it all – per the article he now even has a vacation home in the Azores as he is back and forth managing his immigration biz so often.
The extra funding, meanwhile, injects cash into communities that are struggling during the economic downturn. By expanding the number of immigrants, Bristol jail managed to build five buildings on the campus and expand services that help the entire county, such as a communications unit that patches ambulance drivers through to hospitals, the sheriff said.
“I could just sit here and be lazy and say that’s somebody else’s problem,” Hodgson said of the decision to house immigrant detainees. “This is an opportunity for us to solve a lot of problems and benefit the people of our community.”
No wonder some in law enforcement support ICE’s sweeping raids – ICE is one of the best fundraisers cash-strapped county sheriffs appear to have.
Seems like rather a fractured, backdoor kind of funding, with high human costs. For example:
Last year, Hiu Lui Ng, 34, a native of China who overstayed his visa, died of cancer after being detained at the Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island. A federal inquiry found that jail officials denied his requests for medical care and other services, and that has accelerated calls to release detainees such as Ng who do not have criminal records. In Massachusetts, a majority of detainees are being held for immigration violations, not crimes, and are kept apart from the general jail population.
“The man who died at Wyatt shouldn’t have been in detention at all,” said Sara Ignatius, executive director of the Boston-based Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project. “Eighty to 90 dollars a day to lock up somebody who’s just overstayed their visa? It just seems like a very inappropriate way to spend federal money.”
Not quite the welcome promised by the Statue of Liberty, that beckoned my own ancestors across the ocean – but a fine business opportunity for enterprising county sheriffs like Hodgson. As John D said, “some people are getting rich” – or maybe, just some counties.