Orange County supervisors vote to increase beds for jailed immigrants

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- An angry crowd chanted "shame" at the Orange County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday after members unanimously voted to approve the sheriff's plan to add 120 beds to house immigrants at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department has a contract with the federal government through 2020 which pays the county $118 per detainee, per day.

The estimated increase in revenue would be about $5 million a year if all 958 beds were occupied.

"It is far more humane to keep people from this area here, than in Adelanto, at Bakersfield," said Shawn Nelson, supervisor of Orange County's Fourth District.

MORE: ICE detention center in Orange makes fixes after scathing report

Before the unanimous vote, dozens of residents urged the board to vote against the measure. Many who opposed the expansion raised concerns about conditions and the role of deputies who screen detainees.

"I have heard of unsanitary, unsafe conditions, but above anything, I have heard about the treatment of your own officers inside this facility," one resident said to board members.

The sheriff's department defended the move, stating it wasn't doing the job of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but providing them bed space.

MORE: Video shows undocumented dad taken by ICE while dropping kids off at school

"We don't engage in any kind of federal enforcement. Local law enforcement doesn't do that. We're merely providing bed space," Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens said.

Activists disagreed with Hutchens and promised to continue fighting for immigrants' rights and alternatives to detention.

"The county is complicit in not only the separation of families, but the abuse of detainees inside of Theo Lacy," Jennifer Rojas with the Orange County ACLU said.

The expansion of the beds comes as ICE's contract with the Santa Ana Jail was set to expire at the end of May.
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