Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston announced, today the end to the county’s contract to hold Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond. He was joined at a press conference by Board of Supervisors Chair Karen Mitchoff and Vice Chair John Gioia, in whose district the facility is located.
Following is the Sheriff’s complete statement:
“Today I am announcing that I am ending the contract with ICE to hold detainees at our dormitory buildings on our Richmond jail facility,” he said. “I recently notified ICE of this decision and asked them to begin the process of removing their detainees in a safe and orderly manner. The contract requires 120-day notice and they have told me they will try to resolve as many open-ended immigration cases as they can during this period of transition.
To be clear, the Sheriff’s Office does not do immigration enforcement. In fact, our policy prohibits it. These detainees are not arrested for immigration violations by us or any other law enforcement organization or agency in the county. They were instead persons ICE brought to us under the terms of the contract from all over Northern California and beyond.
There is not one single over riding issue that causes the termination of this contract. Instead there are many. And I am not here to comment on ICE’s enforcement policies or any of their federal partners’ policies. Instead I want to explain the reasons why we are cancelling the contract.
First, we have held an average of about 200 adult detainees a day. And that has generated about $2.5 – 3 million dollars in annual revenue. That revenue varies year to year. Losing it would likely result in the lay-off of Deputy Sheriffs and that was something I was unwilling to do. Instead, working closely with the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Board, and ultimately with the full board, we have found a solution that will backfill the expected budget deficit going forward including the use of state funds to minimize the impact on local taxpayers.
Second, the number of detainees constantly fluctuates. We cannot rely on budget projections and ICE could always decide to move their detainees to another facility.
Third, county employee and operating costs have risen over the years, But the reimbursement rate has not. Long term the contract is just not sustainable.
Finally, the outstanding work by the over 1,000 employees of the Office of the Sheriff have been overshadowed by the attention that the ICE contract brings, even though immigration is a matter of federal law. Managing protests in Richmond have become expensive and time-consuming for our staff.
And to be very fair, one must acknowledge a growing chorus of community groups and individuals from both within and outside the county, that have focused on undocumented immigrants’ issues. And they raise important concerns.
Obviously, this action today does not address the larger and more complex issue of federal immigration enforcement. Most of us have compassion for those to come here seeking a better life but we are a nation of laws. And to be sure, those who come here undocumented who commit new crimes while here will be arrested and processed into our jails as they are currently. That will not change.
My number one priority remains and will continue to be keeping Contra Costa County safe.”
Gioia, who has long publicly opposed the contract, spoke forcefully about why the policy was harmful to families and eroded trust with immigrant communities. He thanked both Sheriff David Livingston for ending the contract and the thousands of residents across Contra Costa who joined in calling for an end to the ICE contract. According to an ABC7 News report “The West County facility currently houses 169 ICE detainees, part of a longstanding agreement that netted the county up to $3 million per year.”
“This is an historic day in Contra Costa County,” said Gioia. “Sheriff Livingston’s decision to cancel his Federal contract to hold ICE detainees at the West County Detention Facility is an important and positive step to build greater trust with our hard-working immigrant families here in Contra Costa.”
“I appreciate and thank Sheriff Livingston for making this decision,” Gioia continued. I know that thousands of Contra Costa residents countywide also thank Sheriff Livingston for this action. To the thousands of our county’s residents who have passionately advocated for an end to the detention of immigrants at the West County Jail, thank you. Thank you for your consistent and loud advocacy. Your actions do make a difference. The Sheriff’s decision was based on a number of factors. Your voices were one of those factors. I thank Sheriff Livingston for listening to the opinion of the large number of sincere and passionate residents who believe that our County should not use our local jail to house ICE detainees.”
However, according to the ABC7 report, “Mitchoff opposes canceling the ICE contract, primarily out of concern about where current and future Bay Area detainees might be sent. ‘I’m sorry to be losing the contract,’ Mitchoff explained. ‘Unfortunately, with the closure of this facility, those individuals that ICE is not able to release through the normal process will be sent to other places throughout the United States.’”
“We don’t know ultimately what ICE will do with these detainees,” Livingston said.
Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA11) issued the following statement after the Sheriff’s announcement.
“Having called for the termination of the contract, I support the Board of Supervisors’ decision and look forward to working with them on making sure the concerns of the community and clients are addressed,” he said.
Following multiple and varying allegations of abuse by ICE agents at the West County Detention Facility, DeSaulnier called for the termination of the County’s ICE contract in March of this year, and he urged U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and California Attorney General Javier Becerra to conduct a third-party investigation of the West County Detention Facility. Contra Costa County is the only of the nine Bay Area counties that has a contract ICE.
Following accusations of mistreatment of ICE detainees, DeSaulnier and Livingston toured the facility, last November and the Sheriff’s investigation found the claims to be unfounded.
Please check back later for updates.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.