How Immigration Activists Got ICE Out of a County Jail

Photoessay By David Bacon
Capital and Main, 9/12/18

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RICHMOND, CA – 14JULY18 – People of faith and immigrants call for family members to be released from the West County Detention Center, where immigrants have incarcerated before being deported. The Contra Costa Sheriff announced he was canceling the contract with Federal authorities under which the jail has housed immigration detainees. Protestors are calling for the detainees to be released to their families, and fear that instead they will be transferred to facilites far away where they will no longer be able to visit them.

ICE has facilities in hundreds of county jails around the U.S., building a dependency among counties on money paid for housing detainees.

Bay Area immigrant communities and immigrant rights activists felt they’d won an important victory July 10. At a news conference, Sheriff David Livingston, flanked by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, announced that his department was ending its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold immigration detainees in Richmond at the West County Detention Facility, one of the county’s four jails.

Immediately, the organizations that had put pressure for years on the county over its cooperation with ICE demanded the release of the detainees, urging authorities not to transfer them to another location. For the next two months, until the immigrant facility inside the jail was closed, detainees’ families and their supporters mobilized to get legal help, and raise the bond money needed to bail people out of detention. In the end, they raised tens of thousands of dollars, and freed 21 of about 175 detainees held inside the center. The rest were transferred.

RICHMOND, CA – 14JULY18 – People of faith and immigrants call for family members to be released from the West County Detention Center, where immigrants have incarcerated before being deported. The Contra Costa Sheriff announced he was canceling the contract with Federal authorities under which the jail has housed immigration detainees. Protestors are calling for the detainees to be released to their families, and fear that instead they will be transferred to facilites far away where they will no longer be able to visit them. Fernando Barraza and his youngest daughter. Fernando was freed several weeks before.

A final vigil held September 1, after the ICE facility closed, was a bittersweet moment. For seven years, monthly vigils had been held under the portico next to the center’s doors. After the sheriff was forced to abandon the ICE contract, however, activists and families were forced to gather next to a new chain-link fence, in the traffic lane of the highway outside the detention center’s parking lot.

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Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte


New York Times Opinion

SEPT. 23, 2016 – Charlotte, N.C. — Since a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday afternoon, the ensuing protests have dominated national news. Provocateurs who attacked police officers and looted stores made headlines. Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency, and the National Guard joined police officers in riot gear, making the Queen City look like a war zone.

Speaking on the campaign trail in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Donald J. Trump offered a grave assessment: “Our country looks bad to the world, especially when we are supposed to be the world’s leader. How can we lead when we can’t even control our own cities?” Mr. Trump seems to want Americans to believe, as Representative Robert Pittenger, a Republican whose district includes areas in Charlotte, told the BBC, that black protesters in the city “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”

But Charlotte’s protests are not black people versus white people. They are not black people versus the police. The protesters are black, white and brown people, crying out against police brutality and systemic violence. If we can see them through the tear gas, they show us a way forward to peace with justice.

On Thursday, I joined 50 Charlotte-area clergy members who were on the streets this week. Yes, a few dozen provocateurs did damage property and throw objects at the police, after being provoked by the officers’ tear gas, rubber bullets and military-style maneuvers. But as we saw, thousands more have peacefully demonstrated against the institutional violence in their communities.

That systemic violence, which rarely makes headlines, creates the daily traumatic stress that puts our communities on edge, affecting both those of us who live there and outside observers who often denounce “black-on-black” crime. We cannot have a grown-up conversation about race in America until we acknowledges the violent conditions engendered by government policy and police practice.

Anyone who is concerned about violence in Charlotte should note that no one declared a state of emergency when the city’s schools were resegregated, creating a school-to-prison pipeline for thousands of poor African-American children. Few voiced outrage over the damage caused when half a million North Carolinians were denied health insurance because the Legislature refused to expand Medicaid.

When Charlotte’s poor black neighborhoods were afflicted with disproportionate law enforcement during the war on drugs, condemning a whole generation to bad credit and a lack of job opportunities, our elected representatives didn’t call it violence. When immigration officers raid homes and snatch undocumented children from bus stops, they don’t call it violence. But all of these policies and practices do violence to the lives of thousands of Charlotte residents.

As a pastor and an organizer, I do not condone violent protest. But I must join the Charlotte demonstrators in condemning the systemic violence that threatened Mr. Scott’s body long before an officer decided to use lethal force against him. And I must condemn the militarization of Charlotte by the authorities who do not want to address the fundamental concerns of protesters. For black lives to matter in encounters with the police, they must also matter in public policy.

The North Carolina NAACP called for full transparency in the Scott case, including a Justice Department investigation. There are still many unanswered questions, which is why we demand that the governor release video from body cameras recording the shooting. And we want accountability for officers who did not have their body cameras on when they confronted Mr. Scott while he was waiting for his son to get off the school bus.

Our protests are about more than the Scott case. Every child on that bus — every person in Mr. Scott’s neighborhood — is subject to systemic violence every day, violence that will only increase if Mr. Trump and others continue to exploit the specter of violent protests for political gain.

We have seen this before. After the civil rights movement pushed this nation to face its institutionalized racism, we made significant efforts to address inequality through the war on poverty. We did not lose that war because we lacked resources or met insurmountable obstacles. We lost it because Richard M. Nixon’s “Southern strategy” played on white fears about black power by promising to “restore order” without addressing the root causes of unrest.

In the Scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah denounces false prophets for crying “peace, peace when there is no peace.” We cannot condemn the violence of a small minority of protesters without also condemning the overwhelming violence that millions suffer every day.

Instead, let’s look again at the vast, diverse majority of the protesters. This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary “law and order” measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible.

William Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., is a founder of the “Moral Monday” movement and the author of “The Third Reconstruction.”

Killings By Police Must Stop Now

Statement by CCDS, July 15 2016police1

Nearly every U.S. city has had Black Lives Matter protests in the two years since Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, MO. The Movement for Black Lives has been galvanized into action once again by shocking videos of the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police. According to a July 10 National Public Radio report, over 200 protesters have been arrested in Louisiana, where Sterling was killed, and in Minnesota, where Castile was killed. These protests have been mirrored across the country over the last several days: thousands of protesters gathered in Oakland, CA on July 8 and blocked traffic in both directions on I-880; on July 8 and 9, 74 protesters were arrested in Rochester, NY; protesters in New York City held a moment of silence for the 11 police officers wounded or killed at a protest in Dallas, TX by lone gunman Micah Johnson, an Afghan War veteran. On July 11th the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, BLM, and Trinity United Church of Christ together mobilized 3,000 people in protest at Federal Plaza. More than 300 have been arrested across the U.S. protesting for justice in the last week.

The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism joins hands in this movement calling for an end to what amounts to a war on Black America.

There has been a long movement for civil rights, equality and justice in the United States whose victories have been inscribed in our Constitution. But the seemingly unstoppable spree of police murders has drawn attention to the fact that the real status of human rights in our country today is another thing altogether. In addition to a documented increase in killings of African Americans by police–often amounting to nothing other than summary execution–our country suffers under an historically unprecedented level of incarceration. Nearly half of all federal and state prisoners were incarcerated for nonviolent drug, property or public order offenses. The U.S. response to migration across our southern border has been violent and repressive. Our homeland security programs–including mass electronic surveillance–are eroding freedom of expression and association. American Muslims face discriminatory investigations and prosecution. The United States steadfastly refuses to grant reasonable access to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, both to our prisons in Guantanamo Bay as well as those within our borders. Those most likely to suffer abuse are those with the least power: racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, children, the poor and prisoners.

And yet our State Department lectures the world on human rights. The United States conducts unending drone killings of civilians in Pakistan, destroys entire countries such as Libya, Syria and Yemen, recklessly expands military operations in Eastern Europe and the South China Sea–all in the name of “humanitarian intervention.” No, nobody who has watched the video of Cleveland Police shooting down 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a drive-by encounter lasting no more than a few seconds, nobody who is awake, can believe this lie any longer.

To move racial and economic justice forward in our country, we must place demands on the state.

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed last March, former heads of state of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico flatly declared, “The ‘War on Drugs’ is an unmitigated disaster.” We must demand an end to the so-called War on Drugs.

police2In a strange twist, another unmitigated disaster, the 1994 Crime Bill, provides an opening for promoting criminal justice reform. It permits the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate local police departments and place those found to be in violation of civil rights under a consent decree. In two decades, we have seen little improvement from Justice Department supervision. But things could improve if the Justice Department’s framework for consent decrees incorporated a crucial feature of the report of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. That feature is Action Item 2.2.3: “mandate the use of external and independent prosecutors in cases of police use of force resulting in death, officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death, or in-custody deaths.” In this election season, we must pressure the Department of Justice to incorporate Action Item 2.2.3, the use of external and independent prosecutors, in their consent decree framework.

We support the Black Lives Matter movement and the many local organizations fighting police crimes, such as the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression-led campaign for a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).

More than simply the right to live, people have the right to live in dignity. This connects the struggle against police brutality to the Fight for $15 and other living wage movements. We must raise Dr. King’s demand for a guaranteed income.

We must recall Dr. King’s courage in pointing out that there was a line that connected the vicious racism of the Selma, AL police with the illegal and immoral U.S. war on Viet Nam. He recognized that the United States was–and still is–the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today. On a very deep level, fighting racism at home calls for fighting to curb the U.S. war machine.

police3The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism has long believed that the problems we face have a systemic source, and that a better world is possible. With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we believe that:

“On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: ‘This is not just.’”