An Oregon county’s commitment to detain undocumented immigrants at the federal government’s request has left little room in its overcrowded jail cells for people involved in more serious offenses. In the last month, Sheriff Dan Stanton said his jails have released individuals involved in the unlawful use of a weapon, assault, robbery, and a car chase in order to jail immigrants for 48 hours so that Immigration and Customs Enforcement can investigate their status.
However, Stanton says the county can no longer afford to release criminals in order to hold alleged undocumented immigrants (his new policy would exclude anyone accused of felonies and misdemeanor violent crimes). According to KATU News, Stanton argued the current system puts “undue burden on the county:”
“I’m releasing people who are committing burglaries. I’m releasing people that are stealing vehicles. I keep releasing people that are low level drug offenders and I’ve got to put a stop to it.“
According to Detention Watch Network, 67 percent of the 33,330 immigrants detained in 2011 were held in hundreds of county and city prisons.
A handful of cities, including New York City and Los Angeles, already limit their cooperation with federal immigration officials on requests to detain immigrants with no serious criminal offense. Budget cuts appear to be forcing many to rethink immigrant detentions, considering their staggering cost at $119 per person per day.