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.

Watching the Electors

When voter suppression tactics prevent citizens from exercising their right to vote, election outcomes fail to represent the true will of the people. – Election Watch program overview

2016 was the first presidential election after the Supreme Court gutted key protections of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder (2013). Free to alter voting laws and practices with no oversight or system of ensuring that their revisions weren’t discriminatory, many localities snuck through changes that went unnoticed and unchallenged. These changes, including strict voter ID requirements, closing down polling places, purging voters, and cutting back early voting and voter registration, disproportionately impacted people of color and young or low-income people, and severely curtailed voters’ access to the ballot.  Election WatchElection Watch, a non-partisan voting rights program, has the ambitious goal of mobilizing trained lawyer volunteers in every county or county-equivalent in the country (count them: 3,144!) to monitor and defend voting rights year-round. The new program, run by the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation (L4GG) in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Voting Rights Institute, will “monitor, report on, … and address problematic decisions made by local election boards across the country on a year-round basis.”

Election Watch will train volunteer lawyers on the ground to monitor local election boards all year and detect rights violations. With this early alert system flagging potential issues as they happen, EW can proactively address problems before damage has been done (i.e., before an election). A national steering committee of experts, including representatives of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and the American Constitution Society Voting Rights Institute, will review the reports, and EW will prioritize and determine next steps for each.

As Trump and the GOP cheat to pack the federal courts with more and more far-right wing judges, it’s clearer than ever that we the people have to educate ourselves about voting issues, and step up to watch over the officials who run the elections in our states, towns, and counties.

How to help:

  • Are you a lawyer, law student, or legal professional interested in volunteering with Election Watch? If so, email me for more information, learn more at the Election Watch program overview, or fill out the signup form.
  • Know any legal eagles, including in other parts of the country, who might be a good fit for Election Watch? Send them the program overview or my email address.
  • Donations to support the program are welcome.
  • Non-lawyers are invaluable in this fight! Learn all you can about your state and local election officials and bodies, and help monitor them.

By Heidi Rand

 

A New DA in Town … Soon

Three months after Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson pled no contest to felony perjury and resigned, the Board of Supervisors is set to appoint an interim replacement.

The Board will interview the 5 finalist applicants at its September 12 public meeting, and could make the appointment that day or at its September 19 meeting. The Board will accept electronically submitted public comments about the DA replacement through September 6.

Two community forums held on Saturday September 9 will give us a chance to hear from and about the finalists.

District Attorney Forum

First, at the Antioch Church Family, 55 E. 18th Street, Antioch, the East County Branch of the NAACP will host candidate interviews conducted by the East County faith community from 10 am to noon. 

District Attorney Town HallThen from 1 to 3 pm the same day, several community groups will hold a District Attorney Town Hall at Miracle Temple, 2425 Cutting Blvd, Richmond CA. Supervisor John Gioia is the keynote speaker, and four of the final applicants are listed on the program (finalist Judge Danielle Douglas is not included on the flyer). Both events are free.

Although the Board’s deadline to submit public comments for the DA selection is September 6, you can always give input to your Supervisor by email, phone, or online. Board meetings are held at the County Administration Building, 651 Pine Street, Martinez, and are streamed and broadcast on Contra Costa Television.

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.

#ResistEngageAct in CA-11

Resistance Fair

Had Mitch McConnell and his cronies succeeded in jamming skinny repeal of our healthcare through the Senate on July 28, the mood would have been more gloomy at Saturday’s Resistance Fair sponsored by Mark DeSaulnier for Congress in conjunction with Indivisible East Bay’s CA-11 United Team.

Resistance Fair

But fresh on the heels of the Resistance’s victory in holding all Democrats and Independents in line, and swaying the critical three Republicans to vote thumbs DOWN, more than 400 people were energized and eager to hear the rallying speeches of Representative DeSaulnier and Jeremy Haile, co-author of the Indivisible Guide.

Resistance Fair
CA-11 United organizers Kristen and Tom, with speaker Jeremy Haile. Photo by Melanie Bryson

Missed it? You can view DeSaulnier’s informative and motivating Powerpoint program, video of Jeremy Haile’s speech, and their Q&A with the audience. (Thanks to Erik Stallman for posting the videos on youtube). IEB member Mel live-tweeted an excellent series of photos with highlights from Haile’s memorable quotes, including: “Trump promised health care repeal would be FIRST thing, and THAT did NOT happen!!” and “You are doing something historic. If we continue working together, we will win.” And our proud Congressman tweeted a video clip of the audience doing a spirited “CALIFORNIA 11” cheer!

Resistance Fair cheer

The Resistance Fair portion of the day was like an in-person Tinder meetup for the crowd (swiping left of course) to mix n’ match, talk to, sign up for info, and find where everyone fit in to become active with the 40 advocacy, electoral and resistance groups who had tables full of flyers, petitions, political swag, and more!

Resistance Fair booths

The tablers also mingled, and coalition-building was thick in the air. Since California District 11 stretches from Richmond to Brentwood, the Fair reunited far-flung friends and enabled new cross-pollination among allies. Organizations focused on the widely diverse issues in our broad progressive movement showed up, including several Indivisible and Democratic Party groups, advocates for civil and criminal rights, racial, gender and LGBTQIA equity,  immigration, youth, and many more.

Resistance fair tables

Trying to figure out where YOU fit to #ResistEngageAct against Trump and the Republican agenda, and to persist in advancing progressive values?

By Heidi Rand

 

Twelve Compete For CoCo County District Attorney Post

Contra Costa County seal

Twelve applicants are vying to fill the Contra Costa County District Attorney position left vacant by Chief Prosecutor Mark Peterson’s resignation on June 14. Unsurprisingly, the field is heavily weighted with current and former prosecutors. You can read their applications (a 170 page pdf) and check out the short profiles in this East Bay Times article.

Board of Supervisors Chair Federal Glover says the Board is “committed to an open and transparent process during the selection period” and that it’s important for the public to have “ample opportunity to provide input as we make this very important decision.”  

Let’s hold them to that! There’s much we can do to highlight progressive positions about racial and juvenile justice, mass incarceration of people of color, bail reform, and more, during the selection process. Attend the Board of Supervisors’ upcoming meetings and forum, and submit questions and comments:

  • At its regular public meeting on Tuesday August 1 at 9:00 am, the Board will review all applications and narrow the field to 3-5 finalists.
  • At the Board’s public forum on Tuesday August 15 at 6:00 pm the finalists will participate in a discussion moderated by former County Clerk Steve Weir.  
  • Submit public comments and/or questions to be posed to the finalists at the August 15 forum.
  • After the forum the Board will interview the final applicants at its September 12 public meeting. The Board could make the appointment that day or at the September 19 meeting.  
  • Give input to your Supervisor by email, phone, or online.
  • Board meetings are held at the County Administration Building, 651 Pine Street, Martinez, and are streamed and broadcast on Contra Costa Television.

Can’t think of questions? Post these suggested questions, or use them to spark your own:

  • What have you done in your work that has impacted the number of people in our county jails and state prisons?
  • How would you reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system?
  • What would you do to reduce the negative impact of prosecutions on immigrant communities?
  • What’s an example of an action you’ve taken in your current job that indicates what you’d do to reform practices in the DA’s office?
  • Describe specific approaches and programs you’ve adopted or worked with that have reduced crime without increasing incarceration.

The applicants are:  

  • Diana Becton (Contra Costa Superior Court judge),
  • David G. Brown (former Contra Costa deputy DA),
  • John Delgado (San Francisco assistant DA),
  • Danielle Douglas (Contra Costa Superior Court judge),
  • Paul J. Graves (senior Contra Costa deputy DA),
  • William H. Green (director of the criminal conflict program of the Contra Costa Bar Association),
  • Thomas J. Kensok (Contra Costa assistant DA),
  • Richard A. Madsen (owner of Madsen Law Firm),
  • Michael Martin Menesini (San Francisco assistant DA),
  • Brad J. Nix (Stanislaus County deputy DA),
  • Michael James Roemer (former Alameda County deputy DA),
  • Patrick Vanier (Santa Clara County deputy DA).

If we learn of any public forums to meet and question the candidates we’ll post them on our Facebook page. Know of any? Please post in the comments or on FB.

By Heidi Rand