Cynthia Terry, Contributor
The Sherburne County Detention Center (SCDC), just forty minutes north of Augsburg, has announced plans to increase the amount of undocumented immigrants that they detain.
The SCDC is one of five immigration detention centers in Minnesota. The other centers are located in Freeborn, Nobles, Kandiyohi and Carver counties. Sherburne holds the majority of the detained immigrants, confining around 71%. As of right now, the center has 300 beds. However, in August, they sent a proposal to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for an increase of bedding to 500. Sherburne is under a contract with ICE through 2022.
If Sherburne’s proposal is approved, the county would have 450 beds available for men and 50 for women. Only adult detainees would be housed in the jail, not youths or families. Although the number of beds has yet to be confirmed, the county has stated that they are willing to lower the number of beds to less than 500, but are reluctant to do so due to the loss of potential revenue. As part of the expansion, the county would need to bring the facility up to current ICE standards, which includes adding more medical and mental health services.
The proposal for more beds has led to debates not only about holding immigrants, but also about the ethical ramifications of prisons receiving a monetary gain for every bed filled. Sherburne County gets about $100 for every bed used, and over the past few years, the detention center has brought roughly $30 million back into the county. The proposal to detain more immigrants has sparked protests, most being led by a group called Sanctuary and Resistance to Injustice. This faith-based group has been protesting at the detention center with signs reading things like “People Don’t Belong in Cages”, “End Deportation” and “Stop Greed”. The protestors argue that the lengthy detention periods, lack of access to mental health care, and the inability to have face to face visits with family make these places inhumane.
Supporters of the detention center and the new proposal argue that the center is simply a temporary housing facility until the federal government can make decisions about the futures of those who are detained. County detention centers have no say in sentencing or length of detainment, both of which are decided by the courts. The county’s role, they argue, is to house those who have been detained on immigration grounds. Supporters argue that if Sherburne County does not follow through with their proposal, ICE may find another facility elsewhere and end its contract with the county after it expires in 2022, which would take away many jobs.
ICE is looking to add more detention centers in Minnesota. Sherburne County is more conservative than most counties in Minnesota, which means the outcry against the growth of these centers is not as loud as it has been elsewhere. Pine Island County, about two hours away from Sherburne, eventually withdrew themselves from consideration last year as a potential site for an ICE detention center after protests.
As of press time, ICE is yet to make a decision about the proposal.
This article was originally published in the October 4, 2019 issue.