Freeborn County debates ICE funding

Freeborn County received $3.6M from ICE last year but that number has dropped to $2.4M this year.

Posted: Aug 1, 2019 8:12 PM
Updated: Aug 2, 2019 10:33 AM

ALBERT LEA, MINN- It's one of the most controversial topics right now: immigration.

The Freeborn County Adult Detention Center in Albert Lea is home to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, where immigration detainees are held.

Last year the county received $3.6M from ICE. This year that figure has gone down to $2.4M because there is no set contract for a fixed number of beds

Freeborn County Administrator Tom Jensen says the county is roughly $800,000 in the hole when it comes to their ICE agreement.

"We just want them to pay their fair share," Jensen said.

In 2009, Freeborn County ratified their initial agreement meaning they would house ice detainees for a fee. As the county starts to plan for the upcoming years Jensen says the numbers just don't add up.

"We get $96 and it cost us a $120 to house a body," Jensen said.

He further explained the county is then responsible for making up the difference footing the bill for a service they don't have to provide. Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag says the county isn’t losing money they are just not making as much as anticipated.

"They are seeing things one way,” Freitag said. “I’m looking at things with our hard numbers."

Freitag explained when it comes to the county's budget they are spending money that isn’t guaranteed. While Jensen and the sheriff don't see eye to eye on numbers they are on the same page as what they would like to see moving forward. They would both like to enter into a contract similar to the one in Sherburne County. ICE pays Sherburne County for 300 beds whether they are used or not.

"What I would like to see is a contract with immigration that guarantees the number of beds," Jensen said. “That guaranteed the rate gives me a very hard number that I know, the sheriffs know my finance director know so that we can budget exactly for that."

Sheriff Freitag says he plans to circle back ICE and come up with a new agreement or contract.

"I'm in the process of trying to raise our per diem for not only housing but also for transport,” Freitag. “One of the things I'm going to push for with ICE is that I want a guarantee."

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