York County's ICE contract one of several across country ending

Matt Enright
York Dispatch
Around two dozen gather for the "Free Our Loved Ones" vigil held outside York County Prison in Springettsbury Township, on Human Rights Day, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. Organizations including MILPA (Movement of Immigrant Leaders in Pennsylvania), New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, VietLead and Juntos, based in Philadelphia, hosted the event urging officials to release those being detained by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the York Detention Center, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Thursday came with some bombshell news: Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer contract with York County Prison.

It's not the only time in the past couple of years that contracts have been terminated between the controversial federal agency and a prison.

More:County official: After nearly 30 years, ICE ends contract with York prison

Around the country, several states and individual facilities are looking to end their contracts with ICE and stop holding immigration detainees. In addition, ICE has also worked to end some of its contracts:

  • A bill prohibiting public and private contractors from entering into, renewing or expanding contracts with ICE is advancing through the New Jersey legislature. That bill has headed to Gov. Phil Murphy's desk. It would not terminate current contracts but would prevent private correctional facilities and state and local agencies from entering into new contracts with ICE.
  • The Washington state legislature has passed a bill banning private detention facilities in the state. Gov. Jay Inslee has signed that bill. The only private detention facility in Washington state, the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, is under contract with ICE to house detainees.
  • The Northern Oregon Regional Correction Facility voted to end its contract with ICE in August 2020.
  • ICE is  working to end its contract with the Dartmouth jail in Bristol County, Massachusetts, and Irwin County Detention Center in Irwin County, Georgia. Both have come under fire for alleged abuses of the immigrants housed there.
  • In Butler County, Ohio, Sheriff Richard Jones has ended a contract with ICE in what he says is an effort to ensure that immigrants do not get shipped to his facility then released on a technicality. Abuse has also been alleged to have taken place there.

York County Prison has had a contract with ICE to hold detainees at the prison since the 1990s, when the Golden Venture freighter ran aground in New York Harbor with hundreds of Chinese immigrants on board. The arrangement paid the prison $18.4 million in 2020 alone, though much of that has gone to costs and upkeep.

After the York County Prison contract ends, just three facilities in Pennsylvania will hold ICE detainees: Berks Family Residential Center in Leesport, Berks County; Clinton County Correctional Facility in McElhattan; and Pike County Correctional Facility in Lords Valley.

ICE is set to finish its contract with the York County Prison on Aug. 12, at which time all detainees will be removed from the local facility.