Jones County Commissioners to make decision on using empty prison as ICE facility

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ANSON, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Jones County Commissioners will soon decide if they want to use the county’s empty prison to house hundreds of male illegal immigrants.

Commissioners say they will make a final decision on the Texas Midwest/Jones County “Bluebonnet” Detention Facility next Monday, the facility would house 750 male illegal immigrants, no children or women would be hosted at the center.

The leaders discussed, in an executive session Monday morning, the aspects of the county’s agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE would use the currently empty Jones County Secure Treatment Facility to house the illegal immigrants as they wait for their individual hearings.

The $35 million prison has sat 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 bond holders, and the money they invested, it’s an opportunity to get their money back,” said Judge Spurgin.

Not everyone at the meeting was won over with the proposed economic impact of the ICE facility. Richard Strait is the pastor of Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Avoca, he says it is morally questionable for a county to profit off who he calls 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,” said Rev. Strait.

If commissioners vote Monday to proceed with the ICE facility, it could be up and running in as little as 3 months.

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