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Clark County official presses Metro for answers about ICE cooperation

Updated July 16, 2019 - 9:45 pm

While Clark County commissioners approved 40 supplemental positions for two understaffed jails Tuesday, Commissioner Justin Jones indicated his future support for more hires will be tied to the Metropolitan Police Department answering his questions about its role in immigration detention.

“Look, as we speak, (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents are raiding people’s houses,” Jones told two high-ranking Metro officials. “ICE agents are holding people in cages at the direction of, frankly, a president who has weaponized an organization.”

Metro recently decided to continue its agreement with ICE, he added, deputizing jail-based officers to act as immigration agents and “I have issues with that.” He called immigration detention “of critical importance to our community here.”

Earlier this year, Sheriff Joe Lombardo said he directed corrections officers in December to stop using immigration holds on undocumented immigrants who have low-level traffic bench warrants “because it was the right thing to do when I did it.”

Jones, who rejected any notion he did not support public safety, said he has asked the department for details about ICE detentions at the Clark County Detention Center and North Valley Complex, which Metro operates and the county funds. Yet he said the department’s lawyers and top officials have not offered answers.

Metro Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank told Jones on Tuesday the department is “more than willing” to supply him and the commission with whatever information they seek.

Jones’ remarks came as the county deliberated on adding 189 new positions throughout the county at a cost of $16 million. Forty new detention positions will cost $3.9 million.

For years, a shortage of corrections officers in Las Vegas Valley detention centers have increased overtime and diverted money that otherwise could be spent on more officers in jails and on the streets, county officials said during a budget presentation earlier this year.

Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said staff shortages were prominent when she joined the board in January 2017, adding that she would “own this one” because earlier promises from the commission to add corrections officers were unfulfilled because of financial restrictions.

“It’s the least of what we owe them from the last two years that we told them to put a plan in place,” she said about the 40 positions.

Meanwhile, Hank told the board that the department would continue to focus on collaboration and efficiency.

“Within the jail, the vision and pillars of what we do are safety of staff, security of facility and well-being of inmates,” he said.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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