There has been an ongoing debate in El Paso County over the jailing of immigrants at the County jail for some time now. This is even more significant under Donald Trump ‘zero tolerance policy’ on immigration. The sheriff is on one side of the debate and County Commissioner Vince Perez is on the other side. There is no question that El Paso is in the midst of the immigration debate because of its proximity to the border. There is also no question that it is a Democrat bastion.
Most readers would be surprised to learn that El Paso is not a “sanctuary city”. Most readers would also find it surprising that although county government officials routinely argue against Trump’s immigration policies and hold marches, the elected officials keep jailing immigrants at the county jail.
Vince Perez, a Democrat, has being fighting the optics of denouncing the separation of children while contributing to the problem by jailing immigrants.
“I think the County’s position is very problematic. I think it’s indefensible,” Perez said. “You cannot have it both ways. You cannot be against the enforcement of federal immigration laws and say that we will detain them in our jails. You cannot be against the separation of children and yet be ok with detaining their parents.” [KVIA, Ochoa, Adrian June 28, 2018]
The controversy is over $80 the U.S. Marshals Service pays the County each day to jail federal prisoners. The County made $22 million in 2017, according Richard Wiles, the Sheriff, an elected office in Texas. Wiles argues that ending the contract would result in 280 lost jobs at the County.
During a Special Meeting of the El Paso County Commissioners Court last week, on June 28, 2018, Perez said that of the 32 immigrants who were separated from their children and who had been released recently, “about 20 of them had been incarcerated in the El Paso County.” [El Paso Times; Flores, Aileen; June 29, 2018]
Perez pointed out that according to the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the El Paso County is the largest incarcerator of federal inmates and the largest in Texas. The County Commissioners refused to act on Perez’ request to end the immigrant jailing contract.
This is not the first time this debate has been argued at County Commissioners Court. Perez had brought this issue up last year. Then County Judge and now House of Representatives candidate, Veronica Escobar argued that it was better to keep the immigrants closer to the community then to send them far away. Richard Wiles used a similar argument last week on why it was better to keep the federal contract.
The problem is that it is about money. Wiles needs the contract to keep 280 jobs at the County jail. Escobar’s husband is an immigration judge, appointed by the Trump administration, making the Escobar household dependent on the immigrant controversy.
Yet, Escobar routinely marches against immigrant abuse and Wiles recently ordered his deputies not to take part-time jobs at the Tornillo detention center.
The Democrats routinely voice against the abuse of immigrants but happily take the money that terrorizes the immigrants.
As Perez succinctly stated, “you can’t have it both ways.”