A new DFL-backed bill would prohibit local governments from contracting with federal agencies like ICE for the purpose of detaining illegal immigrants.
The bill, House File 3060, was introduced by Rep. Fue Lee (DFL-Minneapolis) and now has 17 Democratic cosponsors in the House. State Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis) introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
“Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, a local government must not enter into an agreement with the federal government to provide facilities to receive a person into custody when the basis for detention is a civil violation of federal immigration law,” states the bill.
Five Minnesota counties currently contract with ICE for holding federal immigration detainees, including Sherburne, Carver, Freeborn, Kandiyohi, and Nobles counties. Contracts with the federal agency can be a major source of income for county governments. Sherburne County, for instance, runs the state’s second-largest county jail and receives an estimated $11 million per year from ICE, according to the House’s nonpartisan information office.
“It’s a bill about keeping families together,” Lee said during a Wednesday night hearing for the bill in the Subcommittee on Local Government, which voted in favor of the bill and referred it to the Government Operations Committee for further consideration.
Lee said immigrant detainees are subjected to “unjust and inhumane conditions” in detention facilities.
“What we are doing right now is to end those practices here in the state of Minnesota and really say that we should not be profiting off the backs of immigrant communities and our communities of color who are in these detention facilities,” he added.
Rep. Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville) voted against the bill because it would not only prohibit future contracts with ICE, but would void all existing contracts.
“We hear about kids in cages down at the border,” said Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley). “This is an area I think we need to show some leadership.”
The committee heard testimony from a number of residents, including Samantha Sanchez, whose brother was detained at the Sherburne County Jail.
“He thought me and my mom forgot about him. That was hard on me and my brother,” she said, adding that the incident made her “very disappointed in our system.”
As The Minnesota Sun reported, ICE was looking for more detention space within 100 miles of St. Paul last year, but ultimately decided against the expansion. Sherburne County Jail currently provides ICE with 500 beds and receives $100 a day per inmate, which it uses to help maintain the jail and other county properties.
Lee’s office said ICE maintains approximately 54,000 detention beds nationwide, including 1,000 in Minnesota. He said the contracts with ICE create an “incentive for counties to imprison more people who have not committed crimes beyond overstaying their visas.”
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