Sheriff Unhappy with I.C.E. Decision

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The Mesa County Sheriff's Office is not pleased with the decision by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, who informed the Sheriff this week, he would no longer be able to hold illegal immigrants in the Mesa County Jail.

In the fight against illegal immigration, the Sheriff's Office says this decision is an unexpected blow.

"We should be trying to find solutions," said Sheriff Stan Hilkey. "This seems like a step backwards."

The Sheriff's Office was told it could no longer house illegal immigrants who are arrested because of their immigration status. They can still hold illegal immigrants who commit another crime.

I.C.E. officials told Sheriff Hilkey the Mesa County Jail did not meet certain I.C.E. standards, and that it was unfit to house illegals.

"It's frustrating from the standpoint that you're told your facility is unacceptable," said Sheriff Hilkey.

He says I.C.E. officials had problems with the gym area where the illegal immigrants were housed. He says they also had problems with the fact there was no telephone in the facility.

Sheriff Hilkey says because illegal immigrants are usually only held overnight, they aren't supposed to have access to phones because of security reasons. He also says illegal immigrants should not have to be placed in individual cells among felons and murders, which is what he would have to do to be in accordance with the I.C.E. standards.

"None of that actually makes a lot of sense to me," said Sheriff Hilkey.

In an email to 11 News, a spokesperson for I.C.E. says detainees have been temporarily moved out of the Mesa County Jail until adequate housing is available for them at the facility.

But Sheriff Hilkey says no negotiations are likely.

"If I.C.E. wants to come back and continue to use the facility the way that it's been used in the past -- which was fine -- they're welcome to it," said Sheriff Hilkey. "We feel it's the right thing to do."

He says the Sheriff's Office and local I.C.E. officials have worked well together in the past, and that it is unfortunate the federal government is making rules without inspecting facilities.

"These local I.C.E. officials here -- if it were up to them and us, we'd have this problem worked out," said Sheriff Hilkey.

The Garfield County Jail was also deemed unfit to house illegal immigrants because of its taser policy.

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