Sheriff: Migrants won’t be held in county jail

  • Franklin County Sheriff Chris Donelan in his office at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction. recorder staff/PAUL FRANZ

Recorder Staff
Published: 6/22/2018 9:06:31 PM

GREENFIELD — Parents who have been separated from their children at the border in recent weeks will “absolutely not” be headed to the detainee holding center at the Franklin County House of Corrections, Sheriff Christopher Donelan said Thursday in light of the “horrendous” situation created over immigration.

“I’ve made it very clear that I won’t hold people here only because of their immigration status,” Donelan said, referring to what he has said to the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel.

The Franklin County House of Correction on Elm Street has a contract with ICE. The facility holds people who have already gone through the judicial process and have been convicted of crimes. When detainees arrive to Greenfield, it is often the last holding place before they are sent out of the country, sometimes flying out of Hartford’s Bradley Airport and Boston’s Logan Airport.

The ICE contract brings in close to $3 million a year, Doneland said, which is sent to the state’s general fund. The sheriff said they have the bed space available and view it as a partnership with a sister agency.

“The folks we hold here for ICE are treated with incredible respect and dignity, and I wouldn’t allow that to happen any other way, so the people of Franklin County should know that about their house of correction,” Donelan said.

Part of the reason Donelan does not expect anyone who had been separated from their children at the border is because of a reversal of some of the federal policies by the Trump administration that led to this, he said.

There’s realistically no chance that someone from this recent national controversy regarding migrants at the southern border of the country could go through the months of judicial process and then end up at Greenfield’s holding center, Donelan said.

The contract Donelan has with ICE only allows for the jail to hold detainees who have been convicted of crimes.

This is part of the reason why, Donelan said, when immigration officers conducted what they called a “targeted vehicle stop” in Hatfield last November, resulting in the deportation proceedings against three undocumented Guatemalan immigrants, Donelan refused to let those detainees stay at his facility.

The raid happened overnight and, though those immigrants were brought to the Franklin County House of Corrections, Donelan said when he found out that morning, he told federal officials that they must be sent elsewhere and would not be held in Greenfield.

“We sent them out because we weren’t convinced of the situation there or our ability to legally hold them,” Donelan said.

Donelan has had to answer questions, particularly over the past year, in regard to why his facility holds detainees and to what extent they will move forward with federal policies.

Speaking about the border situation, Donelan said it’s “absolutely horrendous ... It makes me sick to my stomach to see our federal government treating people that way.”

Further, he questioned the narrative pushed by the Trump administration that this practice of separating children from their parents could act as a deterrent to those trying to cross the border illegally.

“I don’t think people in Nicaragua fleeing murders are watching the 6 o’clock news” to see the latest on the country’s immigration policies. “There are people who are fleeing for their lives,” he said.


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