An area mayor is doing all he can to help Carbon County officials become certified to detain illegal immigrants until Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials can pick them up.
During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, Nesquehoning Mayor Tony Walck, who visited the commissioners on Aug. 6 in regard to this matter, told the board that he has written letters to numerous politicians and area mayors asking for their support in getting the Carbon County Correctional Facility certified to house illegal immigrants for a short-term period.
Walck noted that one of the main reasons he is pursuing the matter is because it is a safety issue for the county residents and officers.
He said that some municipalities only have one officer on at a time, which means that if they must transport an illegal immigrant to the nearest ICE certified prison, located in Scranton, the municipality is left without police coverage until that officer can return.
Walck then presented the commissioners with three letters – two written by him and addressed to the commissioners and to Sen. Joseph Lieberman – and one from Brett M. Hannon, recording secretary of Fraternal Order of Police Schuylkill-Carbon Lodge 13.
Hannon's letter echoed Walck's feelings, saying that "The time and manpower it takes to transport an illegal immigrant to the nearest certified correctional facility, often leaves our local municipality without police coverage for several hours. The certification of the Carbon County Correctional Facility would greatly ease this burden. This is a continually growing issue that our counties, municipalities, police departments, and police officers have to face.
"We would like to be able to supply our police departments and officers with all the facilities they require to perform their duties. The lodge fully supports the move for this certification."
Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said he appreciates all of Walck's efforts.
He noted that the county is planning to apply for certification by October, when the new fiscal year for the federal government begins. Any letters from officials and police departments will be helpful with the application.
Commissioner Wayne Nothstein asked if the commissioners will be drafting a letter to show their support as well.
O'Gurek said they were waiting to hear back from Warden Joseph Gross on what he thinks could be done. After that, the prison board will draft a letter on the matter.
The issue of Carbon County not being ICE certified arose in late July.
During the monthly meeting of the prison board, the board discussed an e-mail they received from ICE, stating that they are not allowed to accept detainees and hold them for transport.
At that time, the board said they were not happy with the situation and will work to fix it because it is a burden on the police departments, the prison, and taxpayers.
The following week, Walck approached the commissioners and said he would help to try to get the county recertified.