In a recent discussion with Leavenworth County commissioners, County Administrator Mark Loughry sought to address what he called “misinformation circulated on social media” about an idea floated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to contract with the county to use the now-vacant Leavenworth Detention Center (LDC) to house illegal aliens awaiting deportation to their home countries.
The proposal involves an agreement among the agency, the county, and CoreCivic, the Nashville-based private detention center operator that managed the LDC for nearly 30 years until the Biden Administration, through executive order, ended private prisons in the country by not renewing existing contracts with counties.
The executive order covers only U.S. Justice Department contracts with the private entities. LDC had contracted with the U.S. Marshal’s Service. ICE is part of the U.S. Homeland Security agency.
Although beset by controversies at the LDC, CoreCivic was praised as a “great corporate partner for the county” by the administrator who pointed to the company’s economic impact in the community during its nearly three-decades of operation; $25 million in real and personal property taxes and 300-400 jobs.
Loughry stressed no agreements have been proposed, but offered the broad outlines of benefits to the county, which would act as a “pass-through” in an intergovernmental contract with ICE.
- The county would pay CoreCivic to operate the facility, and collect an administrative fee of between $600,000 and $800,000 yearly to house from 500-950 detainees, all single adults and no children
- 350 new jobs created with an annual payroll of $25-30 million
- An estimated $1 million in new property tax revenue from the revived facility to be shared among school districts, the county and the city of Leavenworth
- A potential infusion of $20 million by CoreCivic to upgrade the LDC facility for its new mission, providing local construction jobs for the length of the project, and generating an estimated $465,000 in sales tax revenue, according to the county’s economic development estimates
- An “opt-out” clause for the county, allowing it to abrogate the contract with a 60-day notice.
Commissioner Mike Stieben opposed the idea and offer the commissioners a motion:
“Leavenworth County will not become involved with any contractual arrangement with ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for the purpose of serving as a party to an agreement or being an intermediary to hold illegal immigrants or other immigrants for any purpose at this time, and no additional staff time of County staff will be devoted to negotiating such an agreement.”
After discussion, Stieben’s motion failed 3-2. Stieben was joined by Commissioner Doug Smith. Commissioners Jeff Culbertson, Mike Smith and Vicky Kaaz opposed.
We reached out to Senators Jerry Moran, Roger Marshall and 2nd District Congressman Jake LaTurner for comment on the possible deal with Leavenworth County. None responded. Neither did representatives from ICE nor CoreCivic.