The county’s contract, struck in 2001, was signed with the Department of Justice’s Immigration and Naturalization Service, which dissolved in 2003. For $170 per person, per day, Cowlitz County houses juveniles who are determined to be a danger to the community while they undergo immigration court proceedings. The decision to detain or release individual juveniles is up to ICE.
Until December, the Cowlitz County Board of Commissioners believed it had control over the contract.
The judges never urged the commission to end the contract, as it complies with state and federal law and staff to provide “excellent service” to detainees, according to the county Superior Court press release.
From mid-October to mid-December, people asked the commissioners to end the contract during the board’s weekly meetings. After the commissioners asked the judges for more information, legal council looked into the contract and had the opinion the judges have authority over it, not the commissioners, Judge Michael Evans said Monday.
In December, judges notified the commission and reviewed if the contract should continue, Evans said. They looked into the health, safety and welfare of the youth, and investigated concerns brought to the commissioners and judges, he said.
The length of time ICE youth detainees were held at the Cowlitz facility was a main consideration in ending the contract, Evans said.