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Washington County Jail sees increase in immigration holds

Nearly 40 people arrested for suspected illegal immigration have been held at the Washington County Jail in September and October.

The arrests did not take place in Washington County, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, and the arrests were made by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.

Sheriff Dan Starry said since the new law enforcement center was built in 1993, they've been taking in inmates from other agencies including ICE, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Department of Corrections and surrounding counties when they have extra space. They charge about $80 per day for each inmate. Most of ICE detainees stay less than a week, and generally only one night.

"Just like anyone else, we work with federal, state and local partners and try to assist any way we can with our beds that we have free," Starry said.

Jail Cmndr. Roger Heinen said ICE inmates don't come through all that often, and the numbers have certainly been higher the past two months.

"Sometimes they'll call, sometimes they won't for weeks," Heinen said.

About 900 inmates were booked into the jail over that two months, Starry said, and 37 of them were men and women arrested for immigration-related charges, making those bookings less than a half percent of the total inmate population.

Heinen said the jail population was a little lower than usual in September and October — they are generally close to capacity in the 227-bed facility — making it possible to take in more inmates from ICE. However, Heinen also suspects the higher number has something to do with President Donald Trump's tightened immigration restrictions.

Some county jails in Minnesota have been moving out their own inmates in favor of taking more from ICE. Starry said that no Washington County inmates were sent to another facility in order to take in immigration bookings.

"Other sheriffs were getting rid of their inmates ... we don't do that," he said. "And we won't do that. Our beds are for our inmates."

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