Hardin County Jail Serves as Sole ICE Detention Facility in Iowa

ELDORA, Iowa  --  The small town of Eldora is home to a big county jail that is different from any others in the state.

The Hardin County Law Enforcement Center houses the county jail and serves as a detention facility for the Department of Homeland Security and ICE. According to federal officials, it is the only one in the state to do so.

The jail can only hold a maximum of 107 inmates, and officials say almost three-fourths of that space is filled with suspected illegal immigrants.

A 2017 jail inspection report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security shows the jail has 79 beds dedicated to ICE detainees. The report revealed on average, 67 of the beds are in use at any given time. According to the county's inmate listing page on Monday, there were 94 ICE detainees in custody at the jail.

Last week, 32 people were arrested in an ICE raid in Mount Pleasant. Nearly two dozen of those detained are being housed in Eldora.

Jail officials tell Channel 13 talks of a contract between federal ICE agents in Omaha began in 2000. Two years later, it began housing ICE detainees. Jail administrator Nick Whitmore says when the jail was first built in 2000, there were no intentions of housing illegal immigrants at the location. Instead, he says the jail was built bigger to take away pressure from crowded, nearby county jails.

The Hardin County Sheriff says the jail acts as a middle man for federal authorities who visit weekly.

"That's basically communicated to us by ICE, where they want us to pick up at or drop off at," says Sheriff Dave McDaniel.

The jail must meet federal requirements, and as a result receives federal funding. It's unsure how much money the jail and/or county receives each year. However, a former county board supervisor tells Channel 13 it's "good" money.

No federal agents work out of the jail. McDaniel says suspected illegal immigrants are held in a separate part of the jail for safety reasons.