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County Can’t Make a Profit Off Imprisoning Families

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County officials in Pennsylvania are considering shutting down the only other family immigrant detention facility in the nation — the 84-bed Berks facility. This could derail Department of Homeland Security plans to  send the 127 people locked up in the T. Don Hutto Family Detention facility in Taylor. DHS announced plans to stop imprisoning families at the Hutto facility on August 6.

In these tough economic times, the county’s officials are looking for ways to cut back on costs. According to a story in the county’s local paper the Reading Eagle, which I noticed during my daily perusal of Bender’s Immigration Bulletin, the county just can’t make a profit anymore off keeping immigrant families behind bars.

“At the initial stages we were permitted to make a profit, but now we are breaking even on it,” Commissioner Chairman Mark C. Scott told the paper. “We have been helpful to the federal government for a decade. Everything is on the table in terms of cost cutting. We are in the process of shrinking county government,” he said.

The center, which generates more than $3 million in income annually for the county, costs $5.6 million a year to operate. The tab is paid for by the federal government. The county is only making $144,000 on leasing the facility to the feds.

Many folks, including myself, were glad to see that Hutto would no longer be a jail for children whose families are awaiting decisions on their immigration status. However, the victory has been bittersweet because the Obama Administration has continued the Bush Administration’s policy of placing children and families in detention centers. If Obama won’t end this terrible immigration policy, maybe the economy will.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.