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Talk about waste... Carbon seeking ICE certification to hold detainees

Published April 16. 2011 09:00AM

Carbon County is still trying to get ICE certified.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board provided an update on the county's attempt to become certified to detain illegal immigrants until Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials can pick them up.

Last July, the issue arose when, during the monthly meeting of the county prison board, the members discussed an e-mail they received from ICE, stating that they were 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, Nesquehoning Mayor Tony Walck approached the commissioners and said he would help to try to get the county recertified.

He contacted numerous politicians and other area mayors asking for their support.

He then turned over his reports to the commissioners, who applied for ICE certification this past October.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said yesterday, that the reason Carbon is not certified is because ICE feels it has a "sufficient amount of approved facilities in Pennsylvania."

He noted that since applying for recertification to hold illegal immigrants short-term at the prison, the commissioners have discussed the matter with U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta's chief of staff. Barletta, during his term as Hazleton mayor, had taken a tough stance on illegal immigration.

"We have a good ally there," O'Gurek said of Barletta and his views on the matter. "We're hoping that we can get approved for short-term stays from the federal government so our police departments don't have to spend hours to go to and from Scranton, which is the nearest ICE approved facility.

"What they want and what we want are two different things," O'Gurek added.

Commissioner Charles Getz also voiced his disapproval of ICE's position.

"We talk about wasting money," he said. "Can't they (ICE) see what this does for our local police departments? They waste money by taking these people all the way up to Scranton."

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein added that some municipalities are left without police coverage for a period of time as a result of ICE's decision to not certify Carbon County.

The commissioners said they will continue to work toward becoming recertified because it is in the best interest to the police and taxpayers.

In other prison business, the board voted to approve a project modification request to the Carbon County Criminal Justice Advisory Board from the county adult probation office. The request removes the original application's request for $15,900 to install a security door to the Live Scan Booking Station and Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network room and moves it to various other security upgrades at the Carbon County Correctional Facility for the Live Scan operations.

O'Gurek explained that Warden Joseph Gross said he felt the security door wasn't necessary.

Since taking over as warden last September, Gross has made some significant changes to tighten security at the prison, including moving equipment around and moving the security scanner up in the lobby.

Robert Crampsie, county controller, said the changes will save the county $15,000.

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