Freeborn County jail to house immigration violatorsby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A southern Minnesota county jail has become the latest facility in the region to house federal inmates who are waiting to be deported from the U.S.
Ten inmates arrived at the Freeborn County Jail in Albert Lea Monday night as part of an agreement between the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the county, officials said.
ICE and Freeborn County officials finalized the five-year agreement in March, and it was officially approved in Washington D.C. last week, according to Freeborn County Jail Administrator Marcellino Pena. The agreement is for as many as 80 detainees at any given time.
Under the agreement, the federal government will pay the county $77 for each inmate per day, Pena said.
"Like every other facility, we're looking to keep some funding in our jails because we're so low on just local detainees," Pena said. "It's a huge tax base for our county as far as the revenue."
Pena estimates the contract with ICE will generate as much as $2.5 million per year, if the jail receives 80 inmates.
"That's a lot of money for our county," he said.
The Freeborn jail will serve as a hub for ICE in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, since ICE does not have its own detention facility in Minnesota, according to ICE spokesman Tim Counts.
ICE has worked out agreements with four other Minnesota jails in Sherburne, Carver, Ramsey and Nobles counties, to house inmates before they are deported, Counts said.
On any given day, there are between 200 and 300 ICE detainees in Minnesota, in addition to approximately 4,000 individuals who also face immigration removal proceedings but are not in custody, Counts said.
Those in jail can stay in federal custody as little as a week, or as long as a year or more.
"Each individual's case is unique," Counts said. "The length of stay depends on a variety of factors, including whether the detainee has been ordered deported; whether appeals are pending."
In 2008, the nationwide average length of stay for a detainee was approximately 31 days, according to Counts.
Pena said the 10 detainees at the Freeborn County jail represented a variety of countries, including Germany, Libya, Jamaica and Mexico. They were coming from ICE's regional headquarters in Bloomington, but had been arrested in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
In all, the Freeborn County jail has a capacity of 122 inmates. Aside from the ICE detainees, there were about 70 inmates in the jail Monday afternoon.