EPCSO candidates discuss controversial federal jail contract

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Four veteran law enforcement officers are facing off in the race for El Paso County Sheriff. Tonight, KTSM talked with them about the controversial federal contract to house immigration violators in the county facility.

For some of the candidates, it was that very contract that convinced them to run. KTSM asked all four how they feel about it and whether or not they plan to extend or eliminate it if elected.

When it comes to the contract between the county jail and the U.S. Marshals, Wiles believes it’s a deal that saves taxpayers money.

“It’s downtown, across from federal courthouse so inmates have access to advocates to family, attorneys, and that funding we get from the U.S. marshals contract helps us offset the cost of the jail. It costs us approx. 72 million to run both facilities downtown and far east and we brought in as much as 24-million a year from the federal government,” Wiles said.

That jail contract, however, has become controversial because it allows the county to house federal inmates including undocumented immigrants — while making a profit.

“I do not think families and kids that are trying to escape horrible conditions in the countries in which they live should be detained in any kind of a lock-down facility. You know, guards, barbed-wire issues like that,” former EPPD Sergeant Ron Martin said.

Martin did concede on one topic, “I’ve been in law enforcement for 30 years and I’ve arrested thousands of criminals some extremely violent ones as the lead law-enforcement entity in El Paso. You follow the laws that are handed down by the state local and federal government and if there is detainer placed on somebody by the state judge then you have no choice but to enforce it.”

Carlos Carrillo says he’s open to the jail housing federal inmates but believes migrant detention should not be handled by the county.

“What we need to realize is that the jail is for those accused of a crime, not immigrants it’s a two-section and the thing is whenever they were accused of a crime the jail is going to be open to a federal agency so they can bring them in,” Carrillo said.

Mendiola says he’s also not on board with housing migrants unless they’ve committed a crime. For him, the contract needs to be revisited.

“I think we can use the jail to house federal inmates although I would work and review the contract and if I have to increase the cost and work on a contract to get more pay for the housing I would do that,” said Mendiola.

As for other issues like mental health services for deputies, all candidates said they would work to provide more resources at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office as well as increase community involvement.

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