Advocates celebrate York County Prison decision to stop contracting with ICE to detain immigrants


YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — York County prison will stop holding detained immigrants in mid-August after deciding to end its contract with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Both commissioners and advocates say the move is a win, but for very different reasons.

For decades York County Prison has housed the immigrant detainees as part of a contract with ICE. When it came time to sign a new contract, the two couldn’t come to an agreement.

York County commissioners say that’s because ICE’s federal standards changed. The prison board decided making the changes those new standards called for didn’t make sense financially.

York County Commissioner President Julie Wheeler said the decision was made with the taxpayers in mind.

“This was a decision that was based on being fiscally responsible. We can not be in a position where we’re going to be losing money on programs,” Wheeler said.

They decided not to agree to a new contract, meaning the current one ends on August 12.

Immigrant advocacy group CASA is celebrating the news. Thais Carrero is the Pennsylvania director of the organization.

“We’re kicking ICE out of York finally,” Carrero said. “Immigrants are here seeking a better future. Most of them are detained while working.”

She says the reason the agreement is ending doesn’t matter as much as the result. Several immigrant families shared heartbreaking stories of having their loved ones detained at the prison.

Celeste Salinas Rugerio says her dad was detained at work and spent a year at the York County Prison before being deported.

“No human should be treated like this and should have to be separated from their family without knowing what’s going to happen next, without any plans of the future,” Salinas Rugerio said.

The end of the contract won’t impact their situation, but they hope it can help other families.

“I don’t want to lose anyone else and I don’t want anyone else to lose their parents, because it hurts,” Salinas Rugerio said.

Currently, around 300 immigrants are being detained at the prison. No one knows yet what will actually happen to them once the contract ends, but CASA is hopeful that they will be allowed to return to their lives and families.

“These folks pose no risk and they can be released, just like they were during covid. So we’re hoping that they’re released, not transferred,” Carrero said.

They plan to keep advocating, but for now they’re celebrating.

“This was the right thing to do so just really grateful,” Carrero said.

York County commissioners say the decision isn’t necessarily permanent, and they would consider future agreements with ICE.

However when the contract ends they will look for another use for the space that previously held the immigrants.

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