County Executive Calvin Ball announced that the Howard County Department of Corrections gave notice on Friday, March 19, of its intent to terminate the contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency, under which the Department housed detainees in ICE custody. This decision was made in the wake of President Biden’s recent reforms of ICE policies and procedures. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here.
“During the past year, our county has had thoughtful conversations and passionate engagement in regard to the policy of our Department of Corrections housing ICE detainees,” said Ball. “Throughout this process, I maintained the position that our Department of Corrections was preferable for these inmates, their families, and their lawyers as compared to federal detention centers being run by the Trump Administration. Now that President Biden’s Administration is addressing ICE policies, we feel more confident in the protection of detainees and their legal rights moving forward. I believe it is in Howard County’s best interest currently to terminate the contract and end the county’s relationship with ICE. I want to reiterate my continued thanks and appreciation to our Department of Corrections for their vigilance to maintain public safety through the care and compassion for the inmates they house.”
The County notified ICE on March 19, 2020 that it will be terminating the contract to house federal ICE detainees at the Howard County Detention Center. ICE will have 60 days to move any current detainees housed in Howard County. The Foreign-Born Information and Referral Network (FIRN) will be providing each of the current detainees with a consultation on their legal rights and representation.
Andrea King-Wessels, Acting Director of the Department of Corrections said, “We’ll do everything we can to ensure a smooth transition.”
“CASA members who have been held in detention know too well the inhumanity of our immigration system,” said Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of CASA. “Every day, immigrants are contributing enormously to the beautiful Howard County community. We thank County Executive Calvin Ball for recognizing that contribution and eliminating the contract with ICE.”
Under the Liberty Act, passed by Howard County Council in December 2020 and signed by County Executive Ball, County employees are prohibited from asking about the immigration status of residents or discriminating based on immigration status. County employees are also required to keep certain information related to citizenship confidential in Howard County.
At the end of last year, Ball also penned a letter to the Biden Administration Transition Team emphasizing the need for changes to ICE and their current operations around the country.
“Ending the ICE contract is a big step forward,” said Leslie Salgado from the Howard County Coalition for Immigrant Justice. “We are proud that Howard County is ending its contract with ICE and working to ensure the civil rights of all County residents.”
“FIRN is committed to consultation with all detainees on their legal rights and representation,” said Mike Mitchell, CEO of FIRN.