Fewer immigrants booked into Utah jail since sequestration
In the months before sequestration, the Utah County Jail held an average of 280 immigrants every day.
The jail has a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that makes it ICE's primary holding facility in Utah. But in the weeks leading to the sequestration and since the cuts began, the number of people ICE booked into the jail has declined, said Darin Durfey, the chief deputy in charge of the Utah County Jail.
On Thursday morning, there were just 113 inmates being detained there by ICE.
"Our numbers are not as high as what they had been," Durfey said. "So whether that's a result of sequestration, I don't know."
Andrew Munoz, a spokesman for ICE, said the Salt Lake City field agency reported just eight detainees released between Feb. 9 and March 1 for budgetary reasons. The Salt Lake City office covers Utah, Nevada, Montana and Idaho.
The federal government and the Obama administration have been reluctant to discuss immigrant detention in the wake of sequestration.
Earlier this month, The Associated Press, citing budget documents, reported ICE released about 2,000 immigrants from jails in Arizona, Texas, Georgia and California and planned to release about 3,000 during March. At first, the White House and ICE maintained the number was only a few hundred.
Then in testimony to Congress on Thursday, ICE Director John Morton admitted the agency had thus far released 2,228 people from detention centers for what he called "solely budgetary reasons."
Morton said four immigrants in ICE's most serious offender category were rearrested shortly after their release. Morton said the majority of those released were considered low risk.
Durfey said he has observed no increase in the number of people ICE has ordered released from the Utah County Jail. Instead, Durfey said, ICE has not been booking as many people.
Fewer bookings can have a big impact on the jail's budget. ICE pays a daily rate of $72.25 to the jail for each person it has booked or ordered detained. Utah County leaders expanded the jail in 2008, largely to accommodate more bookings from ICE.
The immigrants detained in the Utah County Jail and other ICE detention facilities are a mix of people suspected of entering the country illegally or who are suspected of violating their visas. Some may already have been ordered deported and are awaiting transport to their native country. Others are in the midst of deportation proceedings or are accused of committing a local crime and ICE doesn't want them released until their status can be reviewed.