In a modern, multistory building in Gadsden, Ala., 300 illegal immigrants sit locked inside the only public jail in Alabama that will take them. That’s a full capacity of 300 every day, in spite of a fleet of six buses that hauls dozens back home to Mexico each week and more to federal court appearances across the South, reports the Huntsville Times. “They ask every day if we’ll get bigger,” said Etowah County Chief Corrections Officer Scott Hassell, referring to the federal agents who share his jail. “If you build a 10,000-bed facility, they’ll fill it up and want more.”
The Etowah County Detention Center is where the immigration debate in Alabama becomes concrete and steel, lunch trays and jail uniforms. It’s where intent runs up against reality. Because even if America wanted to arrest and deport every illegal immigrant, where would they stay while the hearings and paperwork are completed? “The infrastructure won’t support it,” Hassell said. Seven in 10 of the Gadsden detainees are Mexican nationals awaiting deportation hearings or awaiting deportation after hearings in Atlanta. Nearly all are men, and most aren’t violent.