Contra Costa sheriff to end contract housing ICE detainees

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Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston announced Tuesday he is ending the contract with ICE that houses immigrant detainees at the West County Detention Center in Richmond.

The notice of termination provides ICE up to 120 days to remove detainees from the facility.

The sheriff’s announcement at a press conference follows months of protesting from immigrant rights activists who opposed the detainment of undocumented immigrants at the jail at 5555 Giant Highway. The opposition gained steam following national backlash over the impact of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policies at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Livingston acknowledged protests at the Richmond jail have been “expensive and time consuming for our staff.” But he said the activism was just one of several reasons to terminate the ICE contract, which allowed federal immigration authorities to house undocumented immigrants they detain throughout Northern California and beyond at the Richmond jail.

The sheriff said the jail holds on average about 200 adult ICE detainees per day, generating $2.5 million to $3.5 million annually for the Sheriff’s Office budget. Livingston said he was reluctant to end the contract in part because losing those funds would result in the loss of deputies patrolling the county.

Livingston, however, received a commitment from the county’s Board of Supervisors, including Richmond representative Supervisor John Gioia, who has been calling to end the ICE contract for over a year, to use general fund money and a state grant next fiscal year to make up for the lost revenue.

Another reason to end the ICE contract is it’s not sustainable, Livingston said.

“County employees and operation costs have risen over the years, but reimbursement rates [from ICE] have not, meaning longterm the contract is not sustainable,” he said.

Supervisor Karen Mitchoff says she is opposed to ending the contract, and not just because it brings millions of dollars in public safety revenue into the county. She warned about a negative impact to local immigrant families who receive liberal access to attorneys and other resources at the West County Jail.

“Unfortunately with the closure of this facility, those individuals…will be sent to other places throughout the U.S.,” Mitchoff said, emphasizing that she adamantly opposes the Trump administration’s immigration policies. “Those same undocumented families that we care about won’t have easy access to their family members during this very trying time.”

Gioia called the end to the ICE contract an “historic day in Contra Costa County,” saying the action will work to build trust between local law enforcement and immigrant families in the county.

Gioia thanked immigrant rights groups and active community members for their “consistent and loud advocacy.”

“Your actions do make a difference,” he said.

 

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