Contra Costa sheriff to announce end of ICE contract, sources say
People rally outside the West Contra Costa County Detention Center during a planned 12 hours of protest in Richmond, Calif., on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. In the wake of the ongoing outrage over the separation and incarceration of children taken from their parents at the US/Mexico border, protesters have promised continued actions at the Bay Areaâ€™s only ICE detention center. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
By Aaron Davis | email@example.com | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: July 9, 2018 at 7:24 pm | UPDATED: July 10, 2018 at 7:28 am
RICHMOND — Amid a growing national outcry against ICE stoked by recent scenes of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday is expected to announce that its multimilllion-dollar federal contract to detain undocumented immigrants in a Richmond jail will be cancelled, according to a knowledgeable source within the county.
A local immigrant advocacy group that requested anonymity confirmed it was provided the same information by a county source. The sheriff’s office declined to comment.
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said he has heard some reports that the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff’s office were working on an agreement to end the contract, but he wants to hear details.
“I think it would certainly deflate a lot of concerns of a lot of people if the sheriff got out of the detention business,” Butt said.
In April, Butt requested a tour of the West County Detention Facility in Richmond after learning of allegations that detainees were being mistreated. The sheriff’s office denied Butt’s request at the time, but he has since been given approval to visit the facility on Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office entered into a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service in 2009 to house undocumented immigrants awaiting hearings at the detention facility. As part of that contract, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pays the sheriff’s office $82 per detainee a day. According to the sheriff’s office, an average of 200 people are detained at the jail daily.
Through the arrangement, the county annually collects about $6 million, netting a profit of $3 million, according to the sheriff’s office’s website.
The contract can be cancelled at any time as long as the federal government is given 120 days advance notice.
The West County Detention Facility is the only Bay Area jail that houses undocumented immigrants. It’s unclear what will happen to detainees if the contract is cancelled.
In early June, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted not to renew a five-year-old contract with ICE that housed detainees at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove. Three supervisors went against the sheriff’s recommendations and voted against renewing the agreement, citing ethical grounds and the political climate.
If the Richmond facility becomes off limits for undocumented immigrants, the closest detention facility would be the Yuba County Jail in Marysville.
According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearing House, 960 immigrants were detained at the Richmond jail between October 2014 and September 2015. Of those, 40 percent left the facility, mainly through posting a bond, and 60 percent were transferred to another facility.
The potential cancellation comes in the wake of mounting pressure on Sheriff David Livingston from community groups, residents and elected leaders to end the ICE contract. Sustained protests outside of the Richmond jail have grown larger in recent weeks.
The California Values Act, a new law that went into effect in January, bars local law enforcement agencies from cooperating and communicating with ICE.
In March 2016, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office issued a memo to all staff stating it would no longer honor requests from ICE to hold detainees beyond their regularly scheduled release dates. However, the office found loopholes in the law that allowed it to notify ICE when a detainee was scheduled to be released.
On March 29, this news organization reported that the sheriff’s office had begun publicly posting release dates of inmates, including detained immigrants, on its website. To view the sheriff’s office’s policy and procedures online, go to bit.ly/CoCoSoGPP
'It's not a victory if it's a transfer,' activists react to termination of ICE contract with jail
By: Lisa Fernandez KTVU
Posted: Jul 10 2018 09:33AM PDT
Video Posted: Jul 10 2018 04:09PM PDT
Updated: Jul 10 2018 04:11PM PDT
RICHMOND, Calif. - With regular prayer vigils and protests to “Abolish ICE” held in front of the West County Detention Facility, the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday announced that its federal contract to detain undocumented immigrants in a Richmond jail will be terminated.
The Bay Area News Group was the first to report the story.
Activists call for the release of ICE detainees outside the West County Detention Facility in Richmond. June 9, 2018. Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
But as some cheered the move to end the contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, others worried that this decision will make it much harder for families in Northern California to visit their loved ones awaiting court dates and asylum hearings.
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, who has no oversight of the jail, said this cessation has been "in the works for a while."
Butt said that in terms of public perception, “this is a good thing for Richmond. We don’t want ICE here.”
Others feel the same say. The movement to cut ties with ICE is growing, county jail by county jail. Monterey County cut ties to ICE last December and last month, the Sacramento County jail also severed ties. Jails in Texas, Oregon, Virginia and other counties have also decided to stop contracting with immigration enforcement because of growing discomfort, and public pressure, with the Trump administration’s immigration policies.
“It just felt inherently unjust for Sacramento to make money from dealing with ICE,” Phil Serna, a Sacramento County supervisor who joined two colleagues in canceling the contract, told the New York Times. “For me, it came down to an administration that is extremely hostile to immigrants. I didn’t feel we should be part of that.”
ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said in a statement: “The decision to no longer house ICE detainees at the West County Detention Facility will negatively impact local ICE operations. However, the impact will be greater for those who would have been detained at the facility. Now, instead of being housed close to family members or local attorneys, ICE may have to depend on its national system of detention bed space to place those detainees in locations farther away reducing the opportunities for in-person family visitation and attorney coordination.”
When the Richmond facility closes, the closest detention facility will be the Yuba County Jail in Marysville. There is another ICE detention center in Bakersfield, California. But ICE can transfer detainees anywhere at any time.
“This is not a victory if it’s just a transfer,” said Rev. Deborah Lee, executive director of the Oakland-based Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. “We want people released.” Her organization has been one of the most vocal against detentions. Once a month since April 2011, her group has held prayer vigils in front of the detention facility, asking for the release of the detainees and highlighting individual stories.
Her group advocates that immigration detainees can await their court dates at home, not behind bars.
The pending termination of the ICE contract has not been good for the family of Raul Lopez, who has been held in the Richmond facility for 17 months. His family’s story was made public when his daughter, Alexa, held her quinceanera outside the jail on June 9.
On June 21, Lopez was moved to an ICE facility in Colorado with no warning, said his wife Dianeth Lopez. “This is very difficult,” Lopez said in Spanish, as Lee translated. “We can’t see him anymore.”
She learned of his transfer three days later. She can't say for sure why her husband was transferred, but she had heard talk of the severed ICE contract a while back.
Lopez now works two jobs to care for her two children and speaks to her husband by phone.
Lopez already had a pending immigration case when he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. In March 2017, Lopez went to a check-in appointment at the San Francisco ICE office, where he was taken into custody and has remained in custody since.
The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office has held a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service since 2009 to house undocumented immigrants awaiting hearings at the West County Detention Facility. As one of its selling points to the community for keeping the ICE contract, the sheriff said on its website that having the facility in Richmond allows some detainees “to remain in the Bay Area, closer to their families, rather than at a remote jail somewhere out of the county or the state.”
As part of that contract, ICE pays the sheriff’s office $82 per detainee a day. According to the sheriff’s office, an average of 200 people are detained at the jail daily. The county annually collects about $6 million, netting a profit of $3 million, according to the sheriff’s office’s website. The sheriff also added: “This revenue reduces the local taxpayers’ burden for the overall operating costs of the Office of the Sheriff.”
On its website under a section called “Immigration Myth vs. Fact,” the sheriff reiterates that the jail is simply a place to hold ICE detainees. “The Office of the Sheriff does not participate in enforcement sweeps, immigration-based investigations, or operational campaigns with ICE.”
The West County Detention Facility is the only Bay Area jail that houses undocumented immigrants.
Northern California jail ends federal immigration contract
By PAUL ELIAS Associated Press
July 10, 2018 06:31 PM
Updated 1 hour 10 minutes ago
A Northern California jail will cancel its profitable contract with federal immigration officials to house suspects facing deportation, authorities said Tuesday.
The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department is the third local law enforcement agency in California to cut ties in recent months with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials amid continued protests over federal detention policies.
Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston said several factors led the county to sever ties with ICE, including rising costs and community protests.
"Managing protests in Richmond have become expensive and time-consuming for our staff," the sheriff said. State and local funds will fill in the missing revenue and no layoffs are forecast because of the contract's cancellation, Livingston said.
ICE pays Contra Costa County $6 million a year to jail up to 200 people a day believed to be living in the United States illegally, and the jail nets about half of that, the sheriff said. He said without an increase in what ICE pays, the contract will soon be a money loser because of rising staff costs.
ICE has 120 days until the contract is formally terminated.
ICE contracts with several California jail and a state prison to house about 3,800 detainees facing deportation or are seeking asylum while immigration judges decide their cases.
The county's decision will hurt immigration enforcement efforts, ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said. The agency may have to house inmates further from their relatives, he said.
"Now, instead of being housed close to family members or local attorneys, ICE may have to depend on its national system of detention bed space to place those detainees in locations farther away reducing the opportunities for in-person family visitation and attorney coordination," Rocha said in a statement.
Supervisor John Gioia, who represents the city where the jail is located, said canceling the contract was a good decision. "The price that we pay in the erosion of trust with our immigrant families is a good reason to cancel the contract," Gioia said.
Sacramento County notified ICE last month it was terminating its contract. Monterey County ended its contract in December.
Activists supported the contract's termination, but they called for most detainees to be released from ICE custody while their immigration cases wind through the courts.
"Our perspective is that more families need to be reunified," said the Rev. Deborah Lee, executive director of the Oakland-based Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. "We want people released."
Lee and her group have organized protests for several years outside the jail in Richmond, California, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco. The group conducts a prayer vigil outside the jail once a month seeking the release of detainees while their cases are pending.
Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said most city residents "aren't going to miss ICE."
But the mayor said he was concerned that area detainees will now be held far from the San Francisco Bay Area. The closest ICE detention facility is in Marysville, California, about 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of Richmond.
Flags fly in front of the West County Detention Center in Richmond, Calif., Tuesday, July 10, 2018. Authorities say the Northern California jail will cancel its profitable contract with federal immigration officials to house suspects facing deportation. The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday became the third local law enforcement agency in California to cut ties in recent months with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials amid continued protests over federal detention policies. Jeff Chiu AP Photo
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