Today, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office announced the termination of its $6 million annual contract with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to imprison immigrants for the County’s profit at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond.
This decision was made in haste without any input from people detained by ICE and impacted communities about how to achieve a just closure that would return people to their families. According to Sheriff David Livingston, his decision to end the contract was due to both finances and growing public outrage over the abuses in the jail. The County is giving him $3 million in reserves to backfill the contract.
Julio Cárdenas Lopez, a father of three who was separated from his family for three months while detained at WCDF, declared: "This is a great step forward. It shows that the people united can defeat the government's many injustices, such as the separation of families. So many people suffer humiliation while detained there. I'm now free, but I still live with so much fear."
Norma Garcia Ambrocio, a mother who is fighting to regain custody of her children after spending nearly three years in ICE detention at WCDF, shared, “I haven’t forgotten the mistreatment, the injustices, the racism, how we were unable to defend ourselves. At first we kept silent out of fear. But I fought on behalf of my children, and I’m still fighting, even though it’s not easy.”
The Sheriff and the County must work with the community to ensure that all people who are eligible for release on bond or parole are released within the next 120 days. This could mean applying some of the Sheriff’s new $3 million funds to paying the immigration bonds of people detained at WCDF.
Jose Gutierrez Sanchez, who was detained at WCDF from December 2017 to June 2018 said, “I find it unjust that the county has been paid so much money to detain immigrants there. I was separated from my family for nine months and it nearly destroyed us. It’s extremely difficult for families and detainees to be able to support one another and overcome such a traumatic experience.”
“This is a victory for the people detained at WCDF whose organizing around its intolerable conditions pressured the Sheriff to end the contract. Now, the Sheriff and the County have a moral obligation to ensure that people are released and not transferred across state lines,” said Rebecca Merton, the National Visitation Coordinator of Freedom for Immigrants and coordinator of the organization’s local visitation chapter at WCDF.
If you are interested in helping to secure the release of people in immigration detention at WCDF, you can make a tax-deductible donation to our WCDF Community Fund and you can pledge to host an asylum seeker eligible for parole.
“Now is the time for us to demonstrate that Bay Area communities are willing to step up to ensure the safety and wellbeing of immigrants detained in our backyard by helping fundraise for bonds and opening up our homes for those without local ties,” said Christina Mansfield, the co-founder/executive director for Freedom for Immigrants, which started the first immigration detention visitation program in California at WCDF in 2010.