Due to state sanctuary policies, county policy to go into effect next year; response due today
By Daniel Borsuk
With neither Sheriff-Coroner David Livingston nor one of his representatives in attendance at a meeting of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors’ Public Protection Committee on Thursday, there was more concern as to why the sheriff wasn’t in attendance than the topic at hand: the possibility the county could lose up to $24.7 million in federal assistance.
Representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, Probation, Employment and Human Services, and County Administrator were present at the committee meeting conducted by Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond and attended by Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg.
Without Livingston or his representative at the committee table, supervisors and citizens serving on the committee could not get a proper read on the status of the sheriff’s policy on the arrest and detention of undocumented immigrants primarily at West County Jail, and how well deputies interface with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and United States Marshals.
Some $19.8 million of the $24.7 million in federal aid that the county receives from the federal government is allocated to the Sheriff-Coroner Office. Employment and Human Services receives $1.9 million in federal aid, Probation pulls in $1.1 million, the County Administrator draws $983,971, the District Attorney gets $563,848, and the Public Defender collects $180,412.
“I am surprised and disappointed that the sheriff is not here,” said Supervisor Gioia. “I don’t know if this has ever happened before where the sheriff has not appeared at a Public Protection Committee meeting.”
“I’m shocked and dismayed that no one from the Sheriff’s Office is here,” said Renee Zeimer representing Organizing for Contra Costa Action. “How is the sheriff held accountable to the public?”
About four other also persons complained that the sheriff or a representative should have been in attendance at the committee meeting.
The fate of federal money that California cities and 58 counties receive will probably be decided in United States District Court on Wednesday, Dec. 13, when U.S. District Judge William Orrick is expected to rule on whether California Senate Bill 54 or “the Sanctuary State Bill” that was recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and goes into effect Jan. 1 conflicts with Executive Order 1373 that President Donald J. Trump inked on Jan. 25, 2017.
Executive Order 1373 assigns broad powers to the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Marshalls to investigate, arrest, and deport undocumented immigrants in order to secure the safety of the interior of the nation. The executive order also gives the DOJ investigative power to determine if states, cities, and counties are in compliance with Executive Order 1373.
In Sanctuary States like California, Contra Costa County and other counties are aligning policies to conform with SB 54 unaware how Judge Orrick will rule.
When asked if the county has a Plan B should the U.S. District Court strikes down SB 54 and uphold Executive Order 1373, Supervisor Gioia remarked, “That’ll be an issue for the state and every city and county effected by SB54.”
Sheriff Receives DOJ Letter
The Sheriff-Coroner Office received on November 15 a letter from U.S. Department of Justice Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hansen inquiring whether the sheriff office is in conflict with Executive Order 1373 if a custody deputy does not inform ICE of the immigration status of inmates. “The department is concerned that this appears to restrict the sending or requesting of information regarding immigration status in violation of section 1373 (a) and (b),” wrote Hansen.
The letter was directed to Mary Jay Robb, the Chief for Management Services in the Sheriff’s Office.
Livingston would not respond to calls from the Herald with questions about the letter. The Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Jimmy Lee instead referred calls to County Administrator David Twa.
One program that wasn’t included in the DOJ inquiry is the Stand Together CoCo program, which the Board of Supervisors approved in September with $500,000 in state AB 109 funds to help launch the program. The Public Defender’s Office is overseeing the program.
Twa confirmed that the DOJ letter is about the state’s sanctuary policies, not the county’s new policy that will not go into effect until next year.
County Has Until Today to Respond to DOJ
The county needs to respond to the DOJ inquiry by today, Friday, Dec. 8.
The Stand Together program will monitor ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants in the county. The program that is also funded through private sources will have counselors visiting undocumented immigrants held at West County Jail. The Stand Together CoCo program expects to counsel up to 180 undocumented immigrants held at the jail during the first six months of the program. The program gets underway January 1, 2018.