No Boots No Beds No Wall

Action Deadline – ASAP: Tell Your MoCs to Reject a Budget Deal that Expands ICE and Funds Trump’s Border Wall

As the clock ticks down to another government shutdown, negotiations on the federal budget funding deal continue, with Senate leaders saying on February 11 that they reached a tentative agreement including $1.375 billion for border “barriers,” including 55 miles of new fencing. Unacceptably, the deal also excludes Democrats’ demands to limit immigrant detention funding for ICE. House Democrats must stay strong and reject any additional funding that will allow Trump to tear more families apart.

Let’s be clear: we don’t want another shutdown. But, as Indivisible National put it:

choosing between protecting immigrants and keeping the government running is a false choice—especially with Democrats in control of the House. This bill goes too far in fueling Trump’s deportation force, even if it technically doesn’t have funding for a concrete wall. Congress still has time to pass a clean, year-long continuing resolution (CR), that would keep the government open, and that wouldn’t expand Trump’s deportation machine any further.

Please tell your Members of Congress that we demand a bill that keeps the government open with NO new funding for:

  • Beds: In two years, Trump has dramatically expanded the number of immigrants being incarcerated. In President Obama’s last year in office, 34,000 immigrants were in ICE detention. Now the number is close to 50,000—far above the 40,500 for which Congress had authorized funding. How can ICE detain more people than Congress has authorized? Because DHS uses their transfer and reprogramming authority to effectively steal money from other programs, such as FEMA, to jail more immigrant families. It is Congress’s responsibility to end this financial shell game and add strict limits on DHS Secretary’s transfer and reprogramming authority.
  • Boots: Negotiators are considering giving Trump more Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents. Don’t be fooled. HSI agents are ICE agents — and funding for HSI agents is funding for Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. ICE HSI agents conduct highly militarized worksite raids. The National Immigration Law Center has a great resource with more information on HSI agents here. Congress must NOT increase HSI’s funding — it must cut it and prohibit HSI from arresting workers, while conducting this type of “papers, please” enforcement. 
  • Trump’s racist wall: Negotiators are currently considering including $1.375 billion for border wall funding, which will devastate local communities, as private land is seized using eminent domain, just so Trump can fulfill his hateful campaign promise to build his racist wall along the southern border. It’s critical to keep up the pressure on our Members of Congress and tell them NOT ONE PENNY for Trump’s hateful wall. There must also a policy rider to prevent Trump from using an emergency declaration to transfer and reprogram Defense Dept funding for wall construction. 

 

What you can do:

Call to Action: Ask your senators and House rep to reject any funding deal that expands ICE’s power, funds Trump’s border wall, and maintains DHS’s ability to “reprogram” money to ICE.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m asking ____ to reject the current working budget deal in favor of a bill that keeps the government open with NO new funding for increased detention beds, additional ICE agents, or Trump’s racist wall. Please don’t give in to threats of a shutdown and don’t let our country be held hostage. Please support ONLY a clean budget deal, and place strict limits on reprogramming and transfer authority!

Senators (please call both):

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

House of Representatives (please call your Rep only):

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11_: (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-13): (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15): (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Clap back at the wall

Deadline: February 15, 2019 and keep going – Clap if you can hear me, and tell our Members of Congress to keep it up: No wall, no use of military funds for the wall, no further immigrant detention and border militarization, no bargaining to keep the government open.

Leader Dearest talked and talked and the message was: if you aren’t nice to me about the Wall and immigration, I’m gonna keep on tantrumming. Yeah, nope. We want our Members of Congress to keep right on standing up to him: no funding for the wall, no militarizing the border or jailing more immigrants. No more separating families.

What to do:

Please thank our senators for their votes against the wall, and ask them to continue to vote against all additional funding for ICE, CBP, or wall construction; stronger accountability for DHS; and restricting the administration’s ability to use its transfer and reprogramming authority to treat DHS funding as a slush fund to increase detention programs and invest in ineffective and inhumane policies.

On the front lines, Representative Barbara Lee is on the bipartisan committee that is in charge of writing the Dept. of Homeland Security bill to avert another shutdown. The committee has a deadline of February 15. And Senator Kamala Harris is one of the original cosponsors of a new bill, the ‘‘Restrictions Against Illegitimate Declarations for Emergency Re-appropriations Act of 2019’’ (‘‘RAIDER Act of 2019’’), which would block the administration from using military funds to build the wall without Congressional authorization.

What to say:

To Senator Harris (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Harris for opposing funding for the border wall and for cosponsoring the RAIDER Act of 2019. I hope she’ll continue to oppose all additional funding for ICE, CBP, wall construction, or any form of border militarization.

To Sen. Feinstein (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator Feinstein for opposing funding for the border wall. I hope she’ll continue to oppose all additional funding for ICE, CBP, wall construction, or any form of border militarization.

To Rep. Lee (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661:

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Rep. Lee for opposing funding for the border wall. I’m asking her to continue to vote against all additional funding for ICE, CBP, or wall construction. I hope she’ll also support stronger accountability for DHS. And we need to keep the administration from using its transfer and reprogramming authority as a way to treat DHS as a slush fund to increase inhumane detention programs. And I hope she will do everything possible on the bipartisan committee to keep the government open without giving into the administration’s demands for this kind of funding.

Tell our MoCs: No more funding for ICE/CBP or the Wall

Deadline: today and every day – Like the spoiled kid who says he’ll take his toys and break up the game, the Current Occupant is threatening to shut down the government unless Congress agrees to his demands: $5 billion to pay for his wall and for more inhumane enforcement and detention at the border. This on the heels of tear-gassing kids and calling their parents “baby-grabbers.”

So far, the current House of Representatives is saying OK, but the Senate is saying NO. The Senate should, pardon the expression, stick to its guns. They can insist on a budget with no new funding for the wall or for enforcement; or, alternatively, support a Continuing Resolution, which would basically authorize just enough funding to keep the government going until the next Congress takes office.

And both the Senate and the House have the ability and responsibility to exercise oversight authority over the actions of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In fact, on December 11, at 11 AM Eastern time, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary – on which both Senators Feinstein and Harris sit – will hold a hearing on “Oversight of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” You can watch on CSPAN or here.

What you can do:

Tell Senators Feinstein and Harris:

My name is _____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m horrified by the growing list of atrocities by immigration officials against refugees, from family separation to family gassing at the border. Thank you for speaking out. Please do everything you can to keep funding for ICE and CBP in check – fight for a budget with no new funding for the wall and border enforcement, or support a Continuing Resolution. And please be extra rigorous and thorough in your questioning in the upcoming Judiciary Committee hearing on Oversight of US Customs and Border Protection.

Contact info:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104

 

Tell Representatives DeSaulnier, Lee, and Swalwell that you want them to limit funding, and to call for investigations into the administration’s inhumane immigration policies, including turning away refugees, tear gassing, and family separation.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m horrified by the growing list of atrocities by immigration officials against asylum seekers, from family separation to family gassing at the border. Thank you for speaking out, and please do all you can to investigate, conduct rigorous oversight, and limit funding for the administration’s inhumane immigration policies.

NOTE: You can add on the following for each of the East Bay’s Representatives:

  • If you’re a constituent of Rep. Swalwell, ask him to use his position on the House Judiciary Committee to do all he can, including oversight of ICE and CBP; and thank him for saying that despite threats of a government shutdown, he would never vote to fund the wall. Read our article.
  • If you’re a constituent of Rep. DeSaulnier, ask him to use his position on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to do all he can, including oversight of ICE and CBP.
  • If you’re a constituent of Barbara Lee, thank her for publicly calling out Trump’s “childish and unacceptable” threat to shut down the government if he doesn’t get funding for the wall – and her pledge not to support it.

Contact info:

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

Read our related article for more information.

Hugs, not tear gas!

Outraged by the administration’s inhumane and illegal treatment of refugees seeking asylum at our southern border, the East Bay turned out in force on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at several hastily-planned protests called by the national group Families Belong Together.  

Governance Committee member and CA-11 team lead Ted Lam reports on the noon rally in El Cerrito:

Thirty people, including families with children, gathered at a busy intersection at El Cerrito Plaza at the Stop the Tears protest organized by El Cerrito Progressives’ Sherry Drobner. People held signs – including forming a human billboard spelling out STOP T-H-E-T-E-A-R-S – and enthusiastically chanted “Let them Pass, No Tear Gas” and “Refugees families under attack, This is illegal, Stand up and fight back!”

Stop the Tears protest in El Cerrito, photo by Ted Lam
Stop the Tears protest in El Cerrito, photo by Ted Lam

The pedestrians and motorists streaming by were very supportive, with many honking  in approval. The one-hour event passed too quickly but we felt good at speaking out loud and clear against the administration’s inhumane actions. 

Governance Committee member and volunteer team lead Andrea Lum reports on the San Leandro protest, which she organized with GC member and IEB treasurer Gina Clinton:

Stop the Tears protest in San Leandro
Stop the Tears protest in San Leandro

The day started off rainy and stormy but ended in cheers, honks and waves at our small but mighty protest on the corner of Memorial Park in San Leandro, As the sun came out, our trio was joined by a mother and son, and another person outraged by the tear gassing of families at the border. Seven people on a rainy Saturday – we call that a win!

Didn’t make it to a protest? There’s still much you can do to help fight. See our article with information, a call script, and contact info to make sure that your elected representatives speak out and do all they can.

 

 

 

Tears at the border

Deadline: today and every day –

On Sunday November 25, Customs and Border Protection officers shot tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into Mexico at refugees approaching the country’s busiest border crossing, which the United States had closed that day. This was a shocking, excessive and unjustified response. Asking for refugee status is not a crime and should not be treated as such.

It’s clear 45 set up the chaos and threw the match. He sent an unprecedented and unnecessary number of troops to the border to defend against unarmed civilians seeking asylum, escalated his inflammatory anti-immigrant and racist tweets, and illegally forced the migrants to remain in Mexico under dangerous conditions, all while their claims were processed at a deliberately slow pace.

Asylum seekers must be permitted to apply for asylum, and must be protected from the atrocities they flee, not be subjected to further brutality and violation of their human and legal rights. Immigration officials, including from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, continue to perpetrate a growing list of atrocities – from family separation and detention of children to family gassing (which the Mad Hatter in the White House unbelievably called “very safe,” blaming the shameful incident on “…parent[s] running up into an area where they know the tear gas is forming…” and speculating that the parents might actually be child-stealing “grabbers” … )

What you can do:

We may be miles away but you can help fight this administration’s barbaric and illegal actions.

Make sure your elected representatives speak out:

Our Members of Congress are standing up! Senator Feinstein issued a statement condemning the administration’s actions, and Senator Harris and East Bay Representatives DeSaulnier, Lee, and Swalwell, have also spoken out publicly.

What you can do now: Make sure your MoCs keep speaking out. Call them frequently: it’s the best way to let them know how important this is to you. What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m horrified by the growing list of atrocities by immigration officials against refugees, from family separation to family gassing at the border. Thank you for speaking out, and please do all you can to keep funding for ICE and CBP in check, ensure their compliance with inspections, and conduct rigorous oversight.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841; 1 Post Street, Suite 2450, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553; 333 Bush Street, Suite 3225, San Francisco CA 94104
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804
  • Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

Hit the streets:

Families Belong Together has called for nationwide protests on Saturday and Sunday, December 1-2. There are several events in the Bay Area at varying times, including in the East Bay:

  • Sat. Dec. 1, 9:30 AM: Oakland, Fruitvale Station (near BART entrance), 3401 E 12th St.
  • Sat. Dec. 1, 10 AM: San Leandro, Memorial Park, 1105 Bancroft Ave.
  • Sat. Dec. 1, 12 PM: El Cerrito, El Cerrito Plaza, 7000 San Pablo Ave.

Enter your zip code at this link to find one near you, then click on the link beneath any of the listed events for further details and to RSVP. And stay tuned for further protests.

 

 

Speak up for immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018, or write a letter to the Dept. of Homeland Security (must be postmarked by November 6, 2018).

In September we alerted you to new horrific steps the administration is taking to unfairly treat immigrant families. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have proposed a rule that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit families to be detained in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so speak up and act now!

What you can do:

Use the suggested talking points below, and feel free to add your own thoughts, to either leave an online comment (option 1), or write and mail a letter (option 2):

  • Option 1: Click on this link to leave an online comment about Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children.
    • You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov and include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line.
  • Option 2: Write and mail a letter to:
    • Debbie Seguin, Assistant Director, Office of Policy,
      U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security
      500 12th Street SW
      Washington, DC 20536

Mix & match from these suggested talking points to include in your comment or letter, and feel free to use your own words and add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Also! A great idea suggested by Families Belong Together — hold a letter-writing party and get your friends to write together. Email info@familiesbelong.org for more information, or see the resources in FBT’s toolkit here.

If you missed our original article, here’s more background: The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants. Our September 12 article, when we first asked you to comment, is here.

Families Belong Together graphic by Instagram user @desdemona1

Desert Shame

This action appeared in the Indivisible East Bay newsletter on October 4, 2018.

Subscribe to the newsletter. See our newsletter archives.

Deadline: right now and ongoing – They gave the kids snacks, and that’s damn near all. They woke them in the middle of the night, put them on buses with backpacks, took them to tent jails in the West Texas desert. There are: no schools, not much legal representation or mental health services — it’s an emergency facility, doesn’t have to meet child welfare standards. The government says the kids won’t be there long, they’ll go to sponsor homes soon. We’ve heard that lie before!

Our Senators tell us calls on this national disgrace have fallen off while people call about Kavanaugh (we must multi-call!) Meanwhile, a ray of hope: a brand-new bill in the House of Representatives to prohibit ICE from arresting undocumented immigrants who offer to sponsor kids to get them out of baby jail. Tell your members of Congress: you want them to raise hell over kids in tent jails and you want them to support the “Prevent CHILD Harm Act of 2018.” Yes, even our good guys in DC need to hear from you. And the kids surely need help, ASAP.

What to say:

My name is ______________, my zip code is ____________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m ashamed that this country is jailing immigrant children in tents in the desert without even pretending that they’re trying to meet child welfare standards. I want to thank [Senator or Representative] _____________ for fighting against the administration’s attacks against immigrant children and families. Please fight against putting kids in tent jails and put an end to this disgrace! [For members of the House of Representatives: And I want to ask _____________ to cosponsor the “Prevent CHILD Harm Act of 2018.”]

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095

Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661

Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

 

Help stop the jailing of immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018. Or copy the link into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 

As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas and Georgia, we learn that the administration has been stealing FEMA money to spend on jailing and deporting immigrants. Here’s another part of the unnatural disaster that is the administration’s immigration policy: a proposed rule by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit the administration to detain families in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so read up and act now!

The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Please speak up NOW. Leave a comment at this link (do not comment on this article, please click on the link, or type this into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 ) for Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children. You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov (include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line).

Mix & match from these suggested points to include in your comment, and feel free to add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants.

Bake for Bonds (and more ways to help immigrants)

After Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston announced on July 10, 2018 that he was terminating the County’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), several local groups that had been working to support the immigrant detainees at West County Detention Facility in Richmond mobilized to help ICE detainees who were at risk of being transferred out of state. These transfers would have left the detainees far from their families, communities, and attorneys. Learn more about the Sheriff’s decision at our article.

There are many ways you can help!

  • Bake for Bonds! Support the Freedom for Immigrant Community Bond Fund – help make these fundraisers, organized by the El Cerrito Progressives, a success. The bake sales will raise bond funds for approximately 150 adults. Drop by one of the many bake sales, or volunteer to bake and/or staff a table. You can see all of the dates and locations sign up here. Any questions? Email Sherry Drobner.
  • Donate to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, organized by the  Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and other groups, to pay bond for detainees who can’t afford it, and to pay for related expenses such as phone calls from detention centers.
  • Another fundraiser by the El Cerrito Progressives seeks to raise $5,000 to get at least one detainee out of WCDF. They’ve already raised over $3,000, help them get to their goal! Donations go directly to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, and will be managed by Freedom for Immigrants. Updated August 24, 2018: The El Cerrito Progressives has informed us that as of August 19 there were only eight ICE detainees remaining at the West County Detention Facility because ICE transferred the rest of the detainees out of state although they had court dates in San Francisco. Rebecca Merton of Freedom for Immigrants, the organization handling the Community Bond Fund has said: we definitely still need more fundraising! We are actually running low on funds. And now, in addition to bonding people out, we need to pay for last-minute airfare for folks from cities like Denver, Honolulu, and Tacoma back home.”

Other ways you can help!

Contra Costa County Sheriff skates on thin ICE

Protesting works! Activism pays off! That’s a message we got loud and clear from Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston’s July 10, 2018 press conference announcing that he is terminating the County’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In practical terms, this means the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond will no longer be used to “incarcerate undocumented migrants.” In resistance terms, it’s a victory that many, including members of Indivisible East Bay and our CA-11 team, have long worked to accomplish.

For months previously, WCDF had been the site of increasingly frequent and larger protests over the immigrant detainee issue. The matter gained additional traction in the chaos caused by the Current Occupant’s policy of separating refugee children from their parents. In announcing the termination, Livingston admitted that the public’s growing opposition and mounting political pressure significantly affected his decision. As we said, score one for the effectiveness of persistent protesters.

Cancelling the ICE contract was praised by most local politicians and officials, including Supervisor John Gioia, who declared that housing ICE detainees “erodes the trust between local government and local law enforcement and our immigrant communities. Ending the contract is a critical step in rebuilding this trust.”  Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), who previously called for termination of the contract, also spoke out in support.

Not everyone shared this view. At the press conference, County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff said she was sorry to be losing the contract. One concern was about how the County would make up for lost revenue; the ICE contract reportedly provided around $3 million in profit. Another was that detainees would be moved to sites much further away from family members, supportive communities, and their immigration lawyers.

A solution to the relocation problem, advocated by the Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and other groups active in assisting immigration detainees, would be to release currently held detainees as they await their immigration hearings. Not relying on the administration to release the detainees, these same groups have organized the West County Detention Facility Community Fund to raise donations to pay bond for those who can’t afford it and to pay for related expenses such as phone calls from detention centers.

There’s more than a bit of irony to the Sheriff’s decision. While he deserves credit for  finally terminating the ICE contract, we can’t forget that he has long supported and defended it — which is why people have been protesting at WCDF. His decision looks more like political pressure forcing a one-time capitulation rather than a change of heart. The Sheriff himself has given us much reason to take such a harsh view. To see why, let’s take a closer look at Livingston’s political history:

Looking back

David Livingston was first elected as Sheriff for Contra Costa County in 2010. His initial term passed with apparent little controversy, leading to his unopposed reelection in 2014. Over the next four years, his tenure took a dramatic turn.

In 2017, the East Bay Times‘ Editorial Board objected to Livingston’s heavy-handedness and “bombastic bullying” in dealing with those who “dare disagree with his policies.” As one example, the article noted that the Sheriff rejected a police dispatch contract for El Cerrito as “punishment” for the city’s opposition to an unrelated Livingston-supported West County jail expansion plan.

Later in 2017, twenty-seven WCDF inmates sent a letter, detailing allegations of abuse, to civil rights organization Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC — the national group recently re-named itself Freedom For Immigrants). Among the allegations, detainees described being locked up for hours and told to use bags in their cells when they needed to go to the bathroom. In response to the letter,  Rep. DeSaulnier asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the claims of mistreatment. Numerous other politicians were similarly critical of the Department. Sheriff Livingston denied the accuracy of the letter but did pledge an investigation (we are unaware of any publicly released results). 

In March of 2018, the Mercury News reported that Livingston banned CIVIC volunteers from entering the jail for a routine visit. The advocacy group labelled it as “retaliation” for their prior publicizing of the allegations of abuse. Human Rights Watch supported CIVIC’s complaint, noting that the Sheriff’s decision appeared to be “in response to protected speech, rather than alleged violations of policies and procedures.” In other words, Livingston was again deploying his tactic of “bullying” opponents.

In April, Livingston was accused of publishing the release dates of inmates in what appeared to be an attempt to assist ICE in tracking the inmates upon their release. In response, the California Senate began debate on a bill that would end the ICE contract and prevent “law enforcement from communicating and cooperating” with ICE. Not surprisingly, Livingston strongly opposed the bill, calling it a “disaster.”

During this same period, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt sought to have a tour of the West County facility and Rep. DeSaulnier sought to visit a local children’s shelter that was housing two adolescent girls separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Both politicians were denied permission initially, but by July, close to the time of the ICE contract termination, permissions were granted.

Looking ahead

Amidst all of this controversy, Livingston was again running — unopposed! — for re-election as Sheriff. A strongly worded editorial in the East Bay Times lamented the lack of an opponent to Livingston and his “wrong-headed ideas and practices.” Similarly, IEB asserted that we should “speak out against his record and make sure none of our Democratic representatives supports him.”

Given the lack of an opponent, IEB and the CA-11 team, and several other groups, endorsed a “no confidence” write-in campaign against the Sheriff, rather than asking people to leave the ballot blank. Although the County’s official final vote tally shows Livingston receiving 100% of the vote (160,926), that is misleading — the County told us prior to the election that only write-in votes for “qualified candidates” would be reported. In fact, Assistant Registrar of Voters Scott Konopasek has now informed us that the “total unqualified write in votes for Sheriff-Coroner was 5563.”  That is 3.46%, a significant increase over Livingston’s prior races:

  • 2010: 0.41% (692) of those voting for Sheriff used the write-in option
  • 2014: 1.22% (1,328) of those voting for Sheriff used the write-in option

David Livingston is now on track to be the Contra Costa County Sheriff until at least 2022. In response, the CA-11 team, in coalition with other groups, may consider a recall effort. Recalls are very difficult, so we’ll also continue to search for someone to oppose him in the next election. One problem is that California law requires that a Sheriff candidate be in law enforcement — and it has been difficult to find qualified candidates willing to oppose Livingston.

In the meantime, we will continue to closely scrutinize his actions, ready to protest again whenever the situation demands, and to support those vulnerable populations who suffer most from his policies and practices. It worked this time. It can work again!

How you can help!

Reunite families fund

  • Actions at West County Detention Facility: The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually the first Saturday each  month – check their calendar for date & time. And Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest there the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Keep the Heat on ICE! Join the weekly El Cerrito Shows Up protests organized by a coalition of groups including IEB and CA-11 team members; every Thursday from 6 to 7 PM at western entrance to El Cerrito Plaza
  •  Work with, support and/or donate to Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement
  • Donate to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund    
  • This local fundraiser by the El Cerrito Progressives seeks to raise $5,000 to get at least one detainee out of WCDF. Donations will go directly to the West County Detention Facility Community Fund, and will be managed by Freedom for Immigrants.
  • Want to work with IEB and the CA-11 team to organize against the Sheriff? Email indivisibleca11@gmail.com or join the @moc_team_ca11 channel on IEB’s Slack.