ICE's decadeslong relationship with York County Prison ends

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

After nearly three decades, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will no longer house detainees at York County Prison.

The contract between the agency and the county officially ended Thursday.

York County announced it would end the ICE contract in early July. It is one of several contracts between correctional facilities and ICE that are ending around the country. 

The contract first began in the 1990s, after a freighter called the Golden Venture ran aground in New York with Chinese refugees in 1993. Many of those refugees were housed in York County Prison, and a contract began that would last until 2021.

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

More:Are layoffs imminent? What about the extra space? Questions linger as York County's ICE contract nears end

For York County, the contract brought increased revenue — $18 million in 2020, in a down year — off of the bed day rate for detainees, with the caveat that much of that went into expenses, and with criticism from human rights organizations and immigration advocacy groups.

Now, that contract has ended. 

More:Are layoffs imminent? What about the extra space? Questions linger as York County's ICE contract nears end

“We’re certainly thankful for the positive relationship we’ve had with ICE over the decades," Board of Commissioners president Julie Wheeler said. "Certainly, York County is turning to a new chapter, and I’m looking forward to how we can maximize the new capacity we will have at our prison location to offer programs that will benefit our community in York.”

As an example, Wheeler noted that when the county needed a coroner's office and a county morgue, they utilized extra space at the prison for it.

More:Tears, chants as CASA celebrates end of ICE contract at York County Prison

While the contract is ending, there are still plenty of questions left around the space utilized at the prison, what the effect on employees will be and the fate of former detainees.

More:York County Prison, bucking Gov. Wolf, does not mandate COVID vaccine

Immigration advocacy group CASA, which advocated for the end of the contract since coming to Pennsylvania in 2018, cautioned that the ending of the contract does not necessarily mean the former detainees will be released.

""We need PA leaders to reject ICE in the commonwealth completely. Closing this center and moving it to another location is unacceptable," CASA state director Thais Carrero said via email. "Transferring the fathers, brothers and sons from York to another place is unacceptable. Pennsylvania is on the cusp of imprisoning more immigrants than before, and CASA is wholeheartedly against that."

Doug Hoke, another York County commissioner, said the county's relationship with ICE had been positive.

"We have valued ICE aa a true partner," he said. "Through our association, the prison has grown as an organization and has adopted policies that are critical to ensure the safety and well being of staff and incarcerated individuals."

ICE did not respond to requests for comment.

Like what you're reading? Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.