|Rep. Steve Southerland visits WCSO to discuss immigration|
U.S. Representative Steve Southerland visited the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office Monday. Aug. 19 to discuss immigration issues with Sheriff Charlie Creel and his staff. County Commissioner Ralph Thomas also took the time to talk to the Congressman about the proposed changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood zone maps and the negative economic impact the maps will have on the county ad valorem tax collections in the future.
Congressman Southerland will be in Florida for several weeks meeting with North Florida constituents, job creators and government agencies, he said.
Sheriff Creel took advantage of having the Congressman in the office to ask for assistance with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) funding.
Wakulla County is one of four counties in Florida that provides bed space for ICE detainees before they are deported back to their home countries. ICE recently approved an increase in the daily bed fee received by Wakulla County from $74.54 per day per detainee to $79.66. Baker, Glades and Monroe counties also have ICE detainees in their jail facilities.
Sheriff Creel asked Congressman Southerland for assistance in acquiring a minimum detainee guarantee from ICE as well as a commitment in the number of years the detainees will be housed in Wakulla. The WCSO and ICE have a contract for services but it does not include specific numbers of detainees housed daily and does not include a specific number of years the detainees will be housed locally.
“It is our budget and it is our county’s budget,” said Sheriff Creel of ICE funding concerns. “We would like to be able to know that we will have a minimum number of detainees per day so that we can craft our budget.” As the federal budget woes increased last year the number of detainees being housed in Wakulla County shrunk. The number of detainees has been creeping back up in recent weeks.
Sheriff Creel said he is willing to travel to Washington, DC with staff members to discuss the ICE issue with Rep. Southerland and U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials later this year. During a conference call with members of his staff in Washington, Rep. Southerland asked them to research the issue in anticipation of a joint meeting later in the fall.
Additionally, he asked his staff to check into the FEMA flood map issues for Commissioner Thomas.
Congressman Southerland said ICE is “not catching as many fish” and appears to be putting the ones that are caught into different “live wells in the boat” as some of the same detainees move from facility to facility. He expressed frustration that the federal government would not commit to a specific number of detainees each day. “I don’t know how you are expected to budget when you have no way of knowing how many detainees you will have,” he concluded.