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Immigrant rights activists protest ICE detention at Sherburne County commissioners' meeting

By Brad Sigal |
December 4, 2019
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Immigrant rights activists at Sherburne County commissioners' meeting
Immigrant rights activists at Sherburne County commissioners' meeting (Photo by Brad Sigal)

Elk River, MN - Immigrant rights activists mobilized to the Sherburne County commissioners' meeting at 9:00 in the morning Tuesday, December 3 in Elk River, a town of around 20,000 people an hour northwest of Minneapolis. They held signs throughout the meeting, and several of them spoke passionately during the public comment section of the agenda, appealing to the commissioners to stop participating in and profiting from immigrant detention in the Sherburne County Jail.

The Sherburne County Jail has a contract for 300 beds to detain immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), making it the largest ICE detention facility in Minnesota. From their 300 beds, the county earns around $10.9 million a year - profiting from separating immigrant families as part of the Trump administration’s massive immigrant deportation apparatus. Not content with that, Sherburne County officials have proposed to expand to 500 immigrant beds in the jail, to make even more money from the separation of immigrant families.

The mobilization to the commissioners’ meeting was initiated by Sanctuary & Resistance to Injustice (SARI), an organization based in Elk River that holds a weekly protest outside the Sherburne County Jail and is committed to ending the detention of immigrants there. SARI members pledged to keep coming back until county officials stop using their jail to detain immigrants. Also present were members of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM), Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, and the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC).

Daniel Romero, a member of SARI, ICOM and MIRAC who spoke at the commissioners’ meeting said, “Sanctuary and Resistance to Injustice (SARI) is a faith-based community organization, and many of us are motivated to take action to advance immigrants' rights based on our faith values. Many Sherburne County Board members are also people of faith. Today, SARI members asked the County Board to choose between worshiping God or mammon. [money]. There can be no immigration enforcement - deportation - without the immigrant detention eagerly provided by the Sherburne County jail. The Sherburne County jail and ICE are one in the same, there is no difference.”

The movement to end ICE detention in Sherburne County is part of a growing statewide movement coalescing around a sanctuary state campaign to stop ICE detention and separation of families statewide.