Two weeks after narrowly voting to consider the proposal, the Leavenworth County Commission unanimously dismissed an overture from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house illegal immigrants awaiting deportation at the vacated Leavenworth Detention Center.
The 5-0 vote reflected the public backlash that ensued shortly after the idea was floated by the federal government. The Leavenworth City Commission had a day earlier voted to notify the county of its opposition, citing concerns over law enforcement responsibilities.
Commissioner Mike Smith, who had sided with the majority that more information was needed to make a decision, felt he had received more communication about this issue than any other in his public career. He cited constituent concerns over the country’s “open border” as a reason he ultimately offered a motion to end consideration of the suggestion.
Commissioner Mike Stieben, who opposed the idea from the outset, said it was a matter of trust in the federal government:
“It was disappointing that ICE communicated to county officials that illegal immigrants would not be released in the metro area, but rather, would be sent back to where they had initially been detained if order to be released. Then later ICE officials changed their story and indicated that immigrants would be released locally (KC metro). This despite a clause saying no releases would occur in Leavenworth County unless detained there.
“When two parties are making an agreement together, there must be trust”
Responding to the commission’s action, Ryan Gustin, director of public affairs for CoreCivic, the operator of the detention center before the expiration of its contract, and expected to be in an intergovernmental agreement with ICE and the county to run the proposed facility, said in a statement:
“We will continue to have an open dialogue with Leavenworth County commissioners and the City of Leavenworth to address any concerns that they might have regarding this opportunity.”