TWIN FALLS, Idaho — An Idaho dairy group has sent a letter to Jerome County commissioners in opposition to a pending contract that would lease out space in the county’s new jail to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Idaho Dairymen Association Executive Director Bob Naerebout told the Capital Press (http://bit.ly/2vwTbhy) that many dairymen are concerned with the possibility of losing workers in south-central Idaho with the increased ICE presence.
Because the dairy industry does not qualify for the H2-A or other visa program, it cannot bring in foreigner workers. A significant portion of working Hispanics in the area arrived without legal work status, according to Naerebout.
Workers fear ICE agents “will be looking for them” and some have already left their jobs because, with the looming ICE jail contract, they feel they are no longer safe, Naerebout said.
The Idaho Dairymen Association’s letter to the commissioners asks them to consider the families that could be split up if ICE presence increases in the community. The Idaho Milk Processors Association has also joined the dairymen group in their stance against the contract.
Under the pending contract with ICE, the new Jerome County jail would set aside 50 beds for ICE at a rate of $75 per bed per day, estimated to bring in an additional $1.34 million to the county annually.
A copy of an ICE memorandum given to the newspaper by the Jerome County Sheriff’s Office states that no on-site ICE compliance personnel would be housed at the Jerome facility. It also states that the county would provide the personnel and services for the detentions, including escort and transport of detainees.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice stated in an email to the newspaper that federal regulations prevent the agency from talking about any potential detention contracts.
Although the contract could bring in a substantial amount of money to the county, Naerebout contends that it will be offset by the loss Hispanic workers.
Naerebout cited an economic analysis by the University of Idaho which showed that even a 1 percent decrease in milk processed in a local market for cheese alone could lead to an annual $27 million loss in local revenue.
“This is not a contract that is needed,” he said.
Information from: The Capital Press (Ore.), http://www.capitalpress.com/washington