While the Trump administration has made a priority of ramping up immigration law enforcement, including deportations, this week the national debate about the subject came home to Idaho.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the Jerome County Courthouse on Monday to oppose a proposed contract in which ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) would rent beds in the Jerome County jail, in order to house suspected immigration law violators. The Twin Falls Times-News reports that the proposal involves leasing 50 beds at $75 each per day to ICE, bringing in about $1.37 million a year to Jerome County.
This proposal raises many of the concerns that Idahoans voiced during the legislative session when Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell, introduced an anti-immigrant bill which would have penalized municipal and county governments for failing to comply with federal immigration law enforcement. Fortunately, that bill never got out of committee, but many feared that it would have unnecessarily created an atmosphere of fear in immigrant communities, discouraged members of immigrant communities from cooperating with local law enforcement or reporting crime, and hurt Idaho’s agricultural industry. Today we see Jerome County considering a contract with ICE which would lead to many of the same problematic results.
Maria Andrade, a prominent Idaho immigration law attorney, pointed out the falsity of the notion that ICE only targets undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes, “The [Trump] administration has eliminated the ‘priority’ system of the Obama administration, and explicitly considers all undocumented immigrants to be ‘priorities,’ not just dangerous or serious criminals.”
Andrade points out the danger to public safety that the proposal presents: “When a segment of the population fears calling the police, even for their own safety, it makes the entire community less secure. The practical effect when a group of people ceases to call the police is that the true violent criminals are not brought to justice, and remain at large.”
Andrade’s request of the Commissioners is simple. Join her “in opposing the ICE facility in Jerome County because it will most certainly lead to the deportation of productive, noncriminal members of the immigrant community, many of whom have families depending on them and local businesses that rely on their labor.”
The disruption that an ICE presence in Jerome could bring to the broader community cannot be overstated. “In a county like Jerome, with such a significant Hispanic population, a potential contract with ICE would be immediately devastating to the local economy, businesses, and–most importantly–those who call Jerome County their home,” said Kathy Griesmyer of the ACLU of Idaho.
Griesmyer continues, “Local leaders understand the importance of mobilizing their community, and the community is responding, ready to speak publicly about their fears, to show up by the hundreds in unity with their neighbors, and send a clear message to the Jerome County Commissioners that they will actively oppose any such contract with ICE with all their collective power.”
That collective power resonates far beyond Jerome. “Visibility is essential, we must understand the value of each other’s contributions to our community,” says Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and Boise City Council candidate Naomi Johnson. “The upcoming vote regarding the ICE/Jerome County Jail contract will be a direct message from the Commissioners as to whether or not they hear the voices they are paid to represent. We showed up to put pressure on the commissioners for transparency in all their decisions and also to hear the voices of their community and to understand the impacts of their decisions. I witnessed the showing of 650 community members at the commissioner’s office (that’s comparable to Boise’s women’s march, population-wise) with very thoughtful testimony, and many wearing shirts with their business names on them. It is essential that we stand in solidarity with ALL of our communities in Idaho.”
The Jerome County Commissioners have not yet seen a draft of the proposed contract, but are scheduled to meet with ICE officials soon. In the meantime, make your voice heard.
Griesmyer says that Idahoans need to “keep making phone calls and sending emails to the Commissioners. Despite this ICE contract being specific to Jerome County, if it is signed and goes into effect, it will have a ripple effect across the Magic Valley and into other large agricultural communities that are predominantly supported by Hispanic immigrant workers. This is about standing in solidarity with the immigrant community and refusing to allow elected officials in Idaho play into the federal government’s deceptive and inhumane deportation scheme.”
Call the Jerome County Commissioners at (208) 644-2701 and the Jerome Sheriff(208) 342-1911. Tell them to just say NO to using the Jerome jail as an immigration detention center.