Sheriff to close Richmond ICE facility

Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston announced plans Tuesday to end a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service that allowed ICE to house detainees at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond.

The undocumented migrants affected by this move could be relocated to other facilities as far away as Colorado or Hawaii, Livingston said, based on past precedent set when other counties have taken similar actions.

There were a number of factors driving the decision, according to Livingston, but money was definitely one of them. The contract generates roughly $2.5 to $3 million in revenue, but costs have risen in recent years and the rate paid by the federal government to house ICE detainees has not.

Livingston said Tuesday at a news conference in Martinez:

“Long term, the contract is just not sustainable.”

The frequent protests outside the jail were also a factor.

Livingston said:

“Managing protests in Richmond have become expensive and time consuming for our staff. And to be fair, to be very fair … one must acknowledge a growing chorus of community groups and individuals from both within and outside the county who have focused on undocumented immigrants issues … They raise important concerns.”

Responding to questions from reporters he added:

“I think you’d have to be living in a cave not to understand that there’s a growing discontent here in the community.”

Supervisor John Gioia, who has spent the last year calling for this contract’s end, called this a “historic day” for Contra Costa County.

But Supervisor Karen Mitchoff said:

“I am here to share a different perspective. I am sorry we’re losing this contract.”

The loss of the $2.5 to $3 million in revenue was one of the barriers faced in getting to this point.

The loss, Livingston said, would have likely required him to lay off sheriff’s deputies, but state money was found to backfill some of the hole and the difference will be met with reserve funds.

Livingston said he was unable to lay off deputies.

Mitchoff said:

“It is the Contra Costa County taxpayer who will have to fill that hole.”

She also acknowledged that the local families of detainees currently held at the West County Detention Facility may be adversely affected by the cancellation of this contract, in that seeing their loved ones will require them to travel out of the area.

Mitchoff said:

“Those same undocumented families that we care about will no longer have easy access to their family members during this trying time.”

Rev. Deborah Lee, with the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, issued a statement this afternoon calling on ICE and Livingston to orchestrate a “just and responsible closure” rather than simply transferring detainees away from their families.

Lee said:

“Closing this facility is not yet a victory … It will not be a real victory unless current ICE detainees are released and reunited with their families.”

Lee called on other sheriffs around the state to “fully disentangle and separate themselves” from the deportation system:

“Our ultimate victory is an end to immigration detention, not merely the closure of one facility.”

In a statement echoing Lee’s concerns, the Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance said:

“While ending the ICE contract is a step in the right direction, we are concerned that the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Office made this decision without consulting community members and those who are directly impacted … ICE and county leadership must do more to ensure a just and responsible closure – not simply a transfer of people who are detained to other detention facilities, far from their loved ones with limited to no access to legal representation.”

Livingston said that he would be working with ICE to ensure an orderly wrap up of operations, and that federal officials would make an effort to resolve the cases of the affected detainees before the contract ends after 120 days.