After nearly three decades, the York County Prison will no longer detain immigrants who face deportation proceedings. This move was applauded by many immigrant advocates, who have strongly felt that detainees can face removal proceedings without being detained. The decision to close the detention center was caused by a budgetary issue. The Immigration Court at York is also closing.
Around four months ago, Pike County Prison was left with the maximum number of immigrant detainees. Most of the detainees are pursuing legal efforts to fight deportation proceedings. The Pike County Prison is not transferring detainees to other locations, but rather releasing the detainees. The closure is due to the failure of negotiations to extend the contract by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the county’s officials.
Initially, ICE announced that after August 12, ICE detention in Pike County would end. Warden Adam Ogle wrote in a memo to the staff that ICE will “truly be missed.” The York Daily Record reported that the number of detainees was around 700 last year and is now around 317. The number of detainees has been dropping regularly amidst the pandemic and the change in presidential administrations. The county also determined that new federal standards would have required expensive upgrades at the facility. Studies show that between 2008 and 2018, almost 80% of immigrants who were released from detention appeared in court proceedings as directed.
“We’re very cautious about calling it a victory — it is a meaningful step,” said Erika Guadalupe Núñez, executive director of Juntos, the South Philadelphia-based Latino-rights group. “ICE continues its refusal to end detention, by transferring folks and disappearing folks from facilities that are being closed to other detention centers.” Erika asserts that detainees in York have been held in inhumane conditions.
“ICE has been informed that York County Prison officials do not wish to proceed with additional contract negotiations,” the agency said in a statement Thursday. “The health, welfare, and safety of non-citizens in ICE custody will continue to be one of the agency’s highest priorities.”
The Executive Office of the Immigration Court announced on July 16, 2021, the closure of the York Immigration Court as a direct effect of the prison’s lease with ICE expiring. The court will stop holding hearings in the physical space located within the York County prison effective the end of business on July 30, 2021.
The announcement further states that all pending cases for respondents in custody will be transferred to another location, and parties will receive notices of transfer. All pleadings, including motions, and other correspondence for cases currently assigned to York are to be filed at the location to which the case is to be transferred. Attorneys were instructed to include in the notation, “Attention – Former York Immigration Court Case” on the first page of any such filing.