Abuses Alleged at Richmond ICE Facility

No access to bathrooms, only to plastic bags. Hours-long lockdowns. Federal immigration detainees at the West County Detention Facility have documented these and other complaints in a September letter signed by 27 inmates to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a group that monitors jails where immigrants are detained.

Complaint filed by immigration detainees

The Contra Costa County Sheriff – whose office has a $6 million-a-year contract with ICE to operate the immigration detention center – is investigating the allegations of mistreatment raised by the detainees.

The allegations were publicly revealed in a San Francisco Chronicle article on November 2, and the newspaper has further investigated the story:

You can also read detainees’ demands to improve conditions at the West County Detention Facility, released by the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition.

The reports have raised concerns among state elected officials. Reportedly, Representative Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) has scheduled a tour of the jail on November 27, and State Senator Nancy Skinner has urged California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a letter to probe conditions at the jail.

What you can do:

Please call your elected officials and say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m with Indivisible East Bay. As the SF Chronicle has reported, immigration detainees at the ICE facility at West County Detention Center in Richmond are alleging abuse and mistreatment. Please move quickly to conduct a thorough, independent investigation to insure that their rights are upheld and that conditions do not put their health at risk.

Call State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and ask him to investigate, as Sen. Nancy Skinner has reportedly asked him to do. Public Inquiry Unit: (916) 210-6276 or (800) 952-5225

Other ways to help:

  • Nancy Burke, of Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante & Richmond, is organizing a meeting with the sheriff who runs the West County Detention Center to bring the community’s concerns to her attention. The meeting will focus on 10 points of concern about conditions at the facility. Please contact Nancy by email or phone: (510) 932-9267 if you have questions or you’re interested in attending the meeting.
  • Save the date to help support CIVIC (the group to whom the detainees sent the letter) in their work to end the isolation of West County immigration detainees. Artists for Humanity invites all to an afternoon of music, poetry, and dance, January 28, 2018, 2:30 to 5:00 PM at Ashkenaz in Berkeley. The benefit concert (asking for a sliding scale donation) will create a revolving bail fund to be used by West County detainees to reunite with their families and gain legal representation. Email for more information.

Don’t take them from their homes

This cold-hearted administration has been unfailingly cruel to the immigrant families who bestow their work, their hard-earned money, their very lives upon this country they’ve chosen to be their home. But nothing, not the refugee and Muslim ban; not the ICE raids detaining and deporting thousands, leaving millions behind to live in fear—skip school, doctor’s appointments, court dates; not the discretionary deportation of a cancer nurse with four children. Nothing comes close to the absolute viciousness of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We all know the story: brought here as children, grow up in our communities, stand poised to achieve and contribute so much more. Our country promised to protect them and instead the GOP is threatening to toss them out like garbage.

Our representatives in Washington are doing what they can to pass the DREAM Act and take away the president’s terrifying power over these young people’s lives. But that’s not enough. We also have to act locally to keep these Californians—some of the best and brightest—here at home. The state legislature must pass a robust version of the California Values Act (SB 54). ICE may not coordinate with any state or local agency. Please find your assembly person and ask that they not buckle under pressure from the California State Sheriffs’ association, but instead support a strong SB 54.

Resisting Attacks on Human and Immigrant Rights Under the T**** Agenda

Even with stiff competition from the Warriors’ game, a roomful of community members showed up to Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s June 1st Immigration Town Hall and Resource Fair in Richmond.  

Opening by emphasizing immigrants’ vital value to California’s dynamic economy, DeSaulnier quickly gave the floor to a panel of local experts who each made a short presentation and then fielded audience questions on critical federal and local immigration issues.

Panelists at Rep DeSaulnier's Immigration Town Hall

Richmond Police Lieutenant Tim Simmons (far right) spoke as the city’s Northern District Area Commander, and read a message from Chief Allwyn Brown. Both emphasized community-based policing, and Brown reaffirmed that the current climate of fear would not slow the RPD’s progress in working with the community. The crowd applauded Brown’s statement that the RPD does not enforce federal immigration law. Brown noted that doing so would harm community trust, and acknowledged that the substantial undocumented population tends to be targeted and victimized, making a community/police partnership essential.

Catholic Charities of the East Bay legal services program manager Maciel Jacques (next to Lt. Simmons) highlighted the extensive services CCEB provides, from education and resources on immigrant rights to legal services for documented and undocumented immigrants. CCEB’s presentations and literature teaching people about their rights are vital in these times. Help support Catholic Charities’ crucial work on behalf of immigrant and human rights by donating or volunteering.

DeSaulnier immigration town hall

Private immigration attorney Maria Rivera, based in San Pablo, affirmed that fear of enforcement is real; deportations have doubled in the past 3-4 months over last year. She stressed the need for families to plan for emergencies – from knowing their rights and seeking legal representation to having a plan in case of detention, especially arranging for guardians for children. Warning that everyone without documentation is a target, Rivera strongly recommended consulting an immigration lawyer to address your personal situation, including to identify whether there’s a path to citizenship and to deal with any prior convictions.

Rivera’s valuable concrete advice: Know your rights if you’re stopped by ICE on the street or if they come to your house. If you’re detained, DON’T SIGN ANYTHING and don’t believe what ICE says. DO ask to see an Immigration Judge.

Both Jacques and Rivera noted worsening conditions under the Trump administration, saying that even where official policies haven’t changed, they’ve observed emboldened Customs and Border Protection agents, increased scrutiny of immigration applications, and reluctance to approve benefits. There are also much greater delays in consular processing and by the Department of State.

DeSaulnier immigration town hall

César Manuel Zulaica Piñeyro, from the Mexican consulate in San Francisco, works with the Mexican immigrant community and checks twice weekly for Mexican citizens in ICE detention facilities. He noted increased demand for help getting Mexican citizenship for US-born children and transferring assets to Mexico. Zulaica Piñeyro clarified that for a temporary guardianship to apply in the United States it has to be done in the US, not Mexico.

Regarding ICE detention, detainees only have the right to legal representation at their own expense, and 80% of immigration detainees are unrepresented, which greatly increases their chances of being deported.  Zulaica Piñeyro said that detained Mexicans have the right to notify the consulate, which would contact their family.

Lt. Simmons said there have been no ICE raids in Richmond, although ICE continues to conduct its usual enforcement. Rivera and Jacques mentioned that a rapid response network is being developed in Contra Costa County to quickly deploy observers and/or lawyers for people facing imminent deportation and other problems from immigration enforcement. They referred to the ACILEP network (Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership) already in place for Alameda Co., and its ICE activity hotline at (510) 241-4011.

You can also donate to or volunteer with Centro Legal De La Raza, one of the primary groups behind the ACILEP hotline and network.

By Heidi Rand