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Sanctuary Diocese Task Force

Opposition Grows as Indiana County Considers Expanding ICE Detention Facility

News from the Sanctuary Diocese Task Force

Indiana residents are standing up in opposition to a proposal that would borrow and spend $25 million to expand the jail in rural Clay County, more than doubling its size to create more space for ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) to detain immigrants facing deportation hearings.

A petition to stop the project has already been signed by more than 30,000 people. Click here to read and sign the petition. (Please note: you do not have to live in Indiana to sign.)

Opponents argue that the project is wrong from a human rights perspective and risky from a financial perspective. Nevertheless, the Clay County commissioners currently back the jail expansion and a planning study is underway.

Mari Luna, an organizer with Cosecha Indiana, an immigrant rights movement, and a leader of the coalition opposing the project, has been engaging with local residents about the proposed jail expansion. She stated, “A lot of people don’t even know this jail expansion is happening. Folks want their taxes to go towards schools and mental health services, not the continued criminalization of people. Putting immigrants behind bars while they await their hearing date is wrong and harmful to the community.”

Luna and other opponents of the project argue that people currently detained at the jail face poor conditions and that ICE has cited the jail on several occasions for failing to provide adequate care. They say there is another way forward—the Commissioners can stop the Clay County jail expansion, reduce the number of people they hold for the federal government, and stop making the county dependent on federal government dollars.

While the county commissioners have said that the $25 million in debt financing needed for the project will be paid off by payments from ICE to detain people in the expanded jail, opponents point out that the ICE payments are not actually high enough to cover the full costs of detention, that the county has no contractual agreement with ICE, and that local taxes will have to increase if federal payments fall short in the future. ICE detentions fluctuate depending on political decisions and other factors, such as the pandemic; nationally, they have fallen from a high of about 55,000 at the height of the Trump administration’s “crackdown” to about 22,000 today.

The next Clay County Commissioners meeting to discuss the jail expansion is January 3, 2022 at 9 a.m. at 609 E. National Avenue Brazil Indiana.

For a more detailed discussion of the proposed project and the issues that surround it, see this recent article from Indiana Lawyer. To contribute money or support to stop the Clay County jail expansion, please write to clay.co.concerned@gmail.com.