Government

McHenry County Board at odds over whether to keep jail contract with ICE

County Board officials will put contract to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees to a vote at May 18 meeting

A contract between the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house immigration detainees at the McHenry County Jail prompted more than a dozen people to speak at a Thursday meeting in support of canceling the deal.

The County Board, which met as a Committee of the Whole Thursday, is in the middle of weighing whether it should pass a resolution to make that happen.

Not everyone agrees, however: Some officials said they haven’t yet taken a stance on this topic while others said they will support the resolution to cancel the deal.

Elgin resident Sandra Davila said the time is now to stop putting profits before people, echoing a sentiment made by several that the financial gains are not worth the trauma that the jail imposes upon immigration detainee.

“Let’s not continue to be complicit with ICE in our community,” Davila said. “Cancel the contract with ICE.”

Howard Keltner, a retired chief of corrections for the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office, disagreed, saying he is opposed to the contract’s cancellation.

“I say keep the contract,” Keltner said. “Let due process take its course. They get food; they get medical. Is it the Conrad Hilton? No, it’s not. It’s jail.”

Two McHenry County Board committees have weighed in the topic so far with the Finance and Audit Committee voting to recommend it to the full board last week while the Law and Government Committee voted it down the week before that.

Central to much of the conversation has been how much revenue the contract brings into the county and whether that revenue is worth the moral issues some see with maintaining it.

The contract has seen declining revenues, McHenry County Board documents show. The jail saw a $3.7 million surplus for the 2016 budget year and is projecting a $395,355 surplus through the current fiscal year, based on the jail’s fixed costs.

Board member Tanya Jindrich, a Democrat who supports the resolution, said the county has a chance to right a wrong by canceling the ICE contract.

“Businesses don’t want to be near a detention center,” Jindrich said. “One of things about Woodstock is that businesses don’t want to go to Woodstock because their concern is their employees might be detained or their employees won’t follow them because they could possibly be detained because Woodstock has a detention facility there. We’re missing opportunities for businesses to come to our area.”

Board member Lori Parrish, a Republican, said she is still doing research and giving thought to the contract.

“I’m still conflicted about this,” Parrish said. “I reserve my right to continue to do that before Tuesday’s vote.”

Some people have said a vote on this contract is meant to send a message to the federal government about immigration and the system’s failures, but board vice chairwoman Carolyn Schofield, a Republican, said she doesn’t think a vote on this contract will achieve that aim.

“It is about assisting and enforcing the laws of this country,” Schofield said.

If the resolution passes, the County Board’s finance committee will be tasked with determining how to address the budget implications of canceled contract, officials said. The County Board has until Nov. 30 to terminate the agreement.