-Immigrants Who Fight Deportation Are Packed Into Federal Gulags for Months or Years
The contract between ICE and Pinal County started in the mid-2000's -- before Babeu's time as sheriff -- when county leaders approved a plan to expand the jail, and housing these immigrant detainees to pay for it. The contract allowed for the county to house more than 600 detainees at a time.
The problem was, the per-inmate rate negotiated ended up a losing deal for the county. County spokesman Joe Pyritz tells us the deal has cost the county $2 to $3 million a year. County Manager Greg Stanley has likened it to Pinal County taxpayers subsidizing federal detention costs.
Meanwhile, the jail became the subject of protests and scrutiny from civil-rights groups. ICE has certain standards for such detention of detainees who are fighting civil immigration cases -- they're not supposed to be as harsh as conditions can be for criminal inmates.
The American Civil Liberties Union demanded that immigrants be removed from the facility, after their investigation documented that detainees weren't allowed outside, weren't allowed contact visits with family members, and lived in dirty conditions, among other things.
In 2011, conditions at the jail were the subject of a New Times cover story, which described how immigrants sometimes lived in these conditions for years while they fought their immigration cases.