ANALYSIS: Does Dems' leftward slide endanger York County Prison's ICE deal?

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
York County Prison in Springettsbury Township, Thursday, June 29, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

York County Prison's profitable immigration detention center may be in jeopardy if a Democrat assumes the White House in 2020.

This week, presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., proposed ending contracts between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local jails or private detention centers.

Booker’s proposal is the most recent example of the Democratic Party’s leftward slide on immigration, a point made earlier this month when every candidate on a debate stage indicated they would support providing government-subsidized health care to people residing in the country illegally.

"At first glance, I don’t think the American people would stand for a dramatic change like that," said York County Commissioner Chris Reilly.

The county's 2019 budget lists $26 million in revenue for the ICE contract, but the majority of that is used to cover the administrative and operational costs of housing the detainees, Reilly said. 

"If for some reason the relationship ended, the cost associated with our relationship with ICE would obviously go away, too," he said. "There would be an impact on the budget, but I don’t think it would be devastating."

The county annually nets several million dollars from the contract with ICE, officials have said. But exact figures weren't available Wednesday. 

The county prison has an 800-person capacity for ICE detainees and an average daily ICE population of 695 people, according to 2018 statistics.

If the ICE detention center were to be shut down, York County would need to reevaluate its use of the space, but at this point it's all speculation, said York County Commissioner Doug Hoke.

The plan demonstrates an obsessive need to moralize while prioritizing the needs of illegal foreign nationals over the American people, stated U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, who represents part of York County.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., speaks as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., third from right, and others listen during Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Booker’s plan comes amid widespread outrage on the left over migrant detention facilities on the southern border.

More:York's immigrants, attorneys eye Trump's promised crackdown

More:Decades after Golden Venture, York County is an immigration detention hub

On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General released a report detailing squalid, cramped conditions at camps operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where young children are among the detainees.

The report indicated some detainees were waiting up to a month for a shower with limited ability to change or wash their clothes.

The inspector general's office visited five border protection facilities in Rio Grande, Texas, an area where border patrol agents apprehended 223,263 unaccompanied minors, single adults and family units between October 2018 and May 2019, a 124% increase over the total from October 2017 to May 2018, according to the report.

Border crossings overall have increased dramatically this year.

From October 2018 to May 2019, border patrol agents have apprehended 593,507 unaccompanied minors, single adults and family units crossing the southern border.

The total was just 204,248 during the same period in 2017-18.

"The continued liberal refusal to even acknowledge this crisis at the southern border is negligent, and imperils not only the lives of illegal foreign nationals, but our national security," said Perry in a statement. 

The number of people crossing the southern border into the U.S. from Mexico has skyrocketed since January.

CBP is responsible only for the short-term detention and processing of people who arrive in the U.S. without valid travel documents and should be holding detainees for no more than 72 hours, said Jennifer L. Costello, acting inspector general.

After that, CBP agents usually transfer detainees to other facilities, operated either by ICE or the Department of Health and Human Services.

But across the country, Costello said, ICE facilities are near, or already exceeding, capacity.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., would review Booker's proposal if it came before the Senate, according to a statement from his office. Casey favors bipartisan legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship and double the number of border patrol agents.

Booker has said that he would make the change through executive order. 

A representative for U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said the senator hadn't reviewed Booker's proposal but that he doesn't support open border policies that would eliminate consequences for crossing the border illegally.