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Immigration Advocates React To Butler County Sheriff Ending ICE Contract

ICE arrest
Wikimedia Commons

Immigration advocates and lawyers are celebrating the end of Butler County's relationshp with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and say a recent lawsuit alleging mistreatment of prisoners likely had something to do with it.

Sheriff Richard Jones announced Wednesday he was ending a partnership with ICE to house people who have been arrested or detained by the federal agency. The county's contract has been in effect since 2003. The ACLU of Ohio says the contract was put in place indefinitely.

The federal agency hasn't commented on the announcement. "We have nothing further to add at this time. You can expect additional comments soon," a spokesman told WVXU.

A lawsuit against Butler County was filed last year after ICE detainees alleged abuse by corrections officers at the jail. Allegations involved an officer pushing a detainee down a flight of stairs and beating him, causing the loss of a tooth. The lawsuit also alleges officers' repeated acts of violence, slurs, and anti-Muslim bias against two refugees.

Anna Nathanson is with Norris Law Group. She suggests immigrants raising the alarm about their situation at the jail is what lead to the end of the contract.

"After all of that happened, it seems like the Biden Administration and ICE started asking difficult questions to Butler County Jail Sheriff and the contract was cut," Nathanson said.

Former detainee Demba Diawara said he lived in Ohio for nearly two decades but was deported to Mauritania following his detainment.

"No food, no drink…the foods [sic] are horrible, no hot water, no clothes," Diawara said. "Man, we were like animals over there at Butler County Jail. We were like animals at Butler County Jail man."

In a news release Wednesday, Jones said he will not be accepting any ICE detainees at the county jail and will be terminating the contract to house them in the future.

“We operate an efficient correctional facility and federal officials continue to add unreasonable and cost prohibitive mandates to hold these illegal immigrants," Jones said. "With the crisis at the border getting worse, it concerns me that the feds will ship detainees to my facility, then release them to the streets of my community under some technicality. It's better to just end this arrangement now, than to let that happen. Unlike this current administration, I'm still a firm believer that our government should strictly enforce the immigration laws and I will continue to promote that stance at every opportunity."

Cory Sharber attended Murray State University majoring in journalism and political science and comes to Cincinnati Public Radio from NPR Member station WKMS.