Detainees worth millions

(June 29, 2018) It’s no secret, but it might not be common knowledge that Worcester is among the Maryland counties that has been housing Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees at its jail since 1998.

It’s also known that the county is paid for this service, and the current rate is $87.11 per day, per inmate.

What most people probably don’t know, however, is how that money adds up. Since 2012, the county has brought in more than $42 million by housing these federal detainees.

Currently, there are 151 detainees at the Worcester County Jail, and that translates into almost $13,200 per day in revenue.

Those numbers, if held constant for a year, comes to approximately $4.8 million, and that would be on the low side for the past eight years.

County Administrator Harold Higgins provided revenue figures for holding ICE detainees since 2012, and every year except 2015 the county was paid in excess of $5 million to house these people.

In 2012, according to Higgins, the county was paid about $5.68 million, in 2013 it was about $5.75 million, in 2014 it was about $5.19 million, in 2015 it was almost $4.7 million, in 2016 it was about $5.04 million and in 2017 it was about $5.22 million. The 2018 number hasn’t been audited yet, and the 2019 budget was just passed, but $5.2 million in revenue was budgeted for those years.

If the estimates are correct, that’s $42,282,043 deposited in the Worcester County Jail’s general fund.

Kim Moses, county public information officer, said the cost to cover the expenditures generated by each detainee was not shouldered by county taxpayers, but paid for via fees.

She also said few people held at the jail by ICE came from arrests made in Worcester County. Apart from that, information about the people held in the county jail over immigration issues has not been made public.

Moses confirmed no families or children are held at the jail, but that doesn’t mean no one being kept there is childless.

Moses cited federal guidelines titled “Privacy Guidance for Enforcement and Removal Operations Field Offices: responding to phone calls about detainees June 7, 2011,” which she said governs the release of any information about detainees.

In that policy, it states that all news media calls should be referred to the public affairs office.

Justine Whelan, ICE spokeswoman in the public affairs office, said she needed both the detainee’s name and A-number, which identifies a specific immigration case, to provide any information on detainees.

Other than that, Whelan said ICE does not detain unaccompanied children for any reason, and, in some instances, families are held in facilities designed for that purpose in Texas and Pennsylvania.

Brian has covered every municipality in Worcester at one time or another, and is one of the longest serving reporters in the region. He covers just about everything. He lives in Snow Hill with his wife, Lora, and two sons, Julian and Grady.

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