Northern Michigan county agrees to hold and transport ICE detainees

Feb 27, 2020

Outside the North Lake Correctional Facility.
Credit Taylor Wizner / Interlochen Public Radio

Immigration Customs Enforcement will get help from a northern Michigan county jail to hold and transport immigrants.

Last year, private prison company GEO Group opened North Lake Correctional Facility in Baldwin to house immigrants convicted of federal offenses.

Now, the Lake County jail, just a mile away from the prison, will keep those detainees for up to 72 hours after they’ve been released. Local law enforcement may then transport them to ICE for deportation.

County Administrator Tobi Lake says local officials initially reached out to ICE because they were looking for a federal agency to fill a vacant corrections facility that closed last year.

 

He says the sudden closure led the county to lay off about 45 employees and accrue $3.6 million in debt.

Lake says ICE didn’t want to use the closed facility, but the agency was interested in keeping detainees temporarily in the county jail. The groups agreed to pay the county $86 a night per detainee, plus transportation costs.

Lake says the county agreed to the plan because it will provide them some additional revenue and allow them to rehire one to three of the laid off employees. But, it’s less work than he was hoping for.

“Quite honestly we’ve got to scramble for whatever we can get,” Lake says. “Some areas and some counties might look at this and say it’s not worth our while. But in Lake County, it’s certainly worth our while.”

Close the Camps Detroit Coalition, a Michigan-based activist group, protested the opening of the Baldwin facility last year. The group says it opposes incarcerating immigrants in for-profit prisons. 

Member Libby Jones says she doesn’t agree with local governments that assist immigration enforcement of legal and undocumented immigrants. 

She says the immigration system is inhumane.

“It’s putting people for sale,” Jones says. “The fact that the county is now openly contracting to make a profit is very alarming and it should be concerning for everyone undocumented or otherwise.”

She says she hopes Lake County follows other counties that stopped detaining undocumented immigrants for ICE.