Jones County, Texas, considers empty prison for ICE facility

Migrant Centers

ANSON, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Jones County Commissioners will decide next Monday whether they’ll allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement to use an empty prison to house hundreds of undocumented male immigrants.

Commissioners said the Midwest/Jones County “Bluebonnet” Detention Facility could house 750 adult male immigrants, and that no children or women would be held at the center.

During executive session Monday morning, the commissioners court discussed aspects of the county’s agreement with ICE, which would use the currently empty Secure Treatment Facility to house the immigrants as they wait for their individual hearings.

The $35 million prison has been empty for about 10 years after the Texas Department of Criminal Justice walked away from its contract with Jones County – failing to uphold its “good faith” deal to house drug offenders inside the more than 1,000-bed prison.

According to Jones County Judge Dale Spurgin, the ICE facility would create 250 jobs for the area and give revenue bondholders the chance to earn back the money they lost almost a decade ago.

“We just felt like for the benefit of the bondholders, and the money they invested, it’s an opportunity to get their money back,” Spurgin said.

Not everyone at Monday’s meeting was won over with the proposed economic impact of the ICE facility. Richard Strait, the pastor of Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Avoca, said it is morally questionable for a county to profit off “society’s most vulnerable.”

“When we gain economically off the back of those who are the poorest and the most vulnerable among us, that to me has a moral component,” Strait said.

If commissioners vote Monday to proceed with the ICE facility, it could be up and running in as little as three months.

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