ELK RIVER -- Current detainment of people suspected of violating immigration laws and a proposed expansion has drawn protesters to Elk River.

For close to a year, people from the community have been gathering weekly at the Sherburne County Government Center to protest U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Minnesota.

Diane Narr has lived in the county for more than 20 years and been attending the protests since they started. She says the group got together when centers along the southern U.S. border started making headlines.

I think a year ago we first started seeing the separation of children and things like that and that's what spurred it.

Narr says the goals of the protest are to first stop the expansion from happening and then to stop immigrant detainment at the location altogether.

The Sherburne County Jail is the second-largest county jail in Minnesota. The facility has had ICE detention for over 20 years and is considered the primary location for the state.

It is one of many facilities around the country that responded to ICE's recent request for more space. Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott says expanding the jail would help the local economy.

It would create more jobs for people that live near the government center. The flip side would also be true. If ICE decided to take those 300 inmates and put them somewhere else, we certainly would have layoffs here.

Their proposal includes increasing from 300 to 500 beds as well as adding a separate kitchen, laundry, and booking area. Both the county board and ICE would have to approve the plan.

The sheriff’s office says that between January and October of 2018 the facility housed a total of around 1500 detainees. They estimate about 75 percent of those detainees had also committed a secondary crime.

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