Garfield County OKs plan to hold suspected illegals |

Garfield County OKs plan to hold suspected illegals

Lynn Burton
The Glenwood Springs Post Independent

The Garfield County commissioners approved an agreement for the county jail to house immigration detainees Monday 2-1, over the objections of Commissioner Tresi Houpt.

“This could impact a lot of people,” Houpt said before casting her vote against the three-year contract between the county and the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Houpt told Commissioners John Martin and Larry McCown the contract lacks provisions to protect the county from opening itself to “a world of needs.”

McCown said the contract will just allow the federal government to house detainees in Glenwood Springs, rather than transporting them to Moffat County.

“To transport them to Moffat County isn’t the most cost effective,” he said.

The contract approval comes after the federal Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, announced plans to build a 6,715-square-foot federal processing center in West Glenwood for suspected illegal immigrants.

The center will include an area where suspected illegal immigrants could be held for up to 12 hours. By contrast, the jail can hold suspected illegal immigrants for up to five days before IC would transfer them to other facilities, said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.

He said the federal government will pay Garfield County $55 per day for housing its prisoners there and up to $192,000 over the next three years. Vallario noted that Garfield County spends $26 a day to house people at the jail.

He said detainees believed to be violent will not be housed in Garfield County’s jail, but taken to Park County instead.

Vallario also said he doesn’t think a “build it and they will come” scenario will develop, which would prompt ICE to use the Garfield County Jail as a primary holding facility.

“This is a matter of geographic convenience for ICE, and a way to generate income for us,” Vallario said.

Houpt also asked Vallario whether the new ICE facilities will lead to the government breaking up families around Garfield County. Vallario said he doesn’t know what the ICE detention policies will be.

The federal detention center is slated to be built on Midland Avenue, across from the Glenwood Springs Municipal Operations Center and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s maintenance facility and bus barn.

It would be the local base for an ICE quick response team to cover Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties.

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