Dear Friends,

Today the Contra Costa County (CCC) Sheriff, David Livingston announced that he is ending the ICE contract to house federal immigration detainees at the West County Detention Facility.

For 7 years we have held a monthly prayer vigil at the West County Detention Facility to bring awareness to the growing national problem of immigration detention. We have prayed with families whose loved ones were detained at WCDF and for all those impacted by the range of immigration enforcement policies and the absence of a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are vital parts of our communities. Our relationship and commitment to detainees and their families has led us to join them in advocating for better detention conditions, access to visitation programs, affordable phone calls, release of their loved ones, and post-release housing and support. Due to great community advocacy and effort we witnessed beautiful moments of liberation from detention and the reunification of families and our wider community.

While in the long view, ending Contra Costa County’s incarceration of immigrant detainees is a step towards ending immigration detention (and part of a growing trend of local municipalities to end contracts with ICE detention), the action by the Sheriff is not yet a victory. It will not be a real victory unless current ICE detainees are released and reunited with their families. Our ultimate victory is an end to immigration detention, not merely the closure of one facility. Victory will be the full release, not transfer, of ICE detainees who are our family, friends and neighbors at West County Detention Facility; and the return of those who have already been transferred out of state.

We are calling for this to be a just and responsible closure, not merely a transfer of detainees to another detention facility far away from their families, attorneys and communities of support. We hope that this may be an opportunity for people to be released through one of many alternatives to detention program. Many safe, compassionate and highly effective alternatives to immigration detention exist, and this is an opportunity for those currently detained to be released on parole or bond, using ICE’s prosecutorial discretion. People can and should be released while they await for their asylum or deportation cases to proceed, so that they can be united with their families and more readily access legal counsel. It is unnecessary for immigrants to be detained when humane, cost-effective alternatives exist. As a nation we operate the largest immigration detention system within the largest prison system in the world. We must seek effective and dignified alternatives to incarceration that value family reunification, rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
We call on ICE and the CCC Board of Supervisors and Sheriff to work with community groups like ours who believe that there must be a just and responsible closure . A responsible closure means first and foremost, a commitment to the well-being of immigrants detained and their loved ones. It means full support for their family reunification and release. It means legal representation for the majority of immigrant detainees who have no legal representation. It means consultation with detainees and their families who will be impacted by this closure, about what a just and responsible closure looks like to them and the kinds of support they will need. 

We call on the CCC Sheriff and other Sheriffs in California to fully disentangle and separate themselves from the ICE deportation system, including the publishing of release dates, so that more people are not easily apprehended by ICE and turned over to detention centers far away from home.

We ask that congregations and individuals in our network work with us to successfully achieve a responsible closure.

Join us this as we work together for the freedom and release of detainees at West County Detention Facility:

Here is how you can help:  
1) We will still be at West County Detention Facility next month - August 4th, at 11 am.

2) Join with us in Advocacy to advocate for release and not transfer. Make sure you stay tuned as we inform you of upcoming actions.

3) Organize a Bond Fundraiser in your community to support the release of those eligible for release on bond but who cannot afford it.  Sign up here to get more info about organizing a bond party.

4) Consider becoming a Housing Sponsor to provide housing hospitality for those who might be eligible for parole but who are in need of a sponsor in order to get released.  Read more info here.

Through this all, let us continue to pray for this to be a just transition
and keep praying for all the families and their loved ones.