Contra Costa County has deported more people than any other county in the Bay Area through Secure Communities, a partnership between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement agencies, according to data ICE released under the Freedom of Information Act.
But it’s a small difference. And Contra Costa’s leaders have suggested they might change the county’s policy, which may bring its numbers down further.
Alameda County’s figures are right behind Contra Costa. And while Napa and Sonoma County have lower deportation totals, both seem to be more aggressive when it comes to removing undocumented people from the country.
Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston announced at the end of last year that he is rethinking his stance on Secure Communities, in which local law enforcement sends fingerprints collected at county jails to the Department of Homeland Security for immigration checks. Since 2008, nearly 250,000 people, one-fourth of the more than 1 million deportations nationwide, came through the Secure Communities program.
Each county treats Secure Communities differently. An ICE detainer is a request for local law enforcement to hold an individual in jail for 48 hours longer than they otherwise would in order to facilitate the transfer to ICE custody. Enforcing detainers is optional, said Grisel Ruiz, a fellow and attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, and counties have different policies on when to enforce them.
Since Secure Communities was introduced, 1,971 people have been deported from Contra Costa County, and 1,897 from Alameda County. In Marin County, 326 people were deported in the four-year time period.
Sonoma and Napa, where 1,175 people and 377 people were deported respectively, actually have a higher rate of deportation when compared to the number of detainers they hold for ICE. Of the 4,671 people ICE identified as being undocumented in Sonoma, 25 percent were deported. In Napa County, that figure is 26 percent. In Contra Costa and Alameda counties, about 19 percent of people detained for ICE were deported.
Statewide, Santa Clara County is considered to have the most progressive and least cooperative policy with Secure Communities. The Santa Clara Board of Supervisors stated in 2011 that the county would not honor ICE detainers unless ICE agreed to reimburse the county for the cost incurred, Ruiz said.
“And ICE hasn’t done that,” Ruiz said. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center and other groups like the Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights have led campaigns “to get something like Santa Clara,” Ruiz said.
Since Secure Communities went into effect, 1,679 people have been deported from Santa Clara; more than 600 were deported since September 2011, when the Board of Supervisors changed its policy.
Ruiz said Contra Costa activists are hoping Sheriff Livingston will stop enforcing immigration detainers. But Ruiz said that she expects the Sheriff to revise the circumstances of when a detainer should be enforced and not stop using them completely. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office said no decision has been made yet.
“We’re still reviewing the policy and still talking to interested groups to see what we can do to modify,” said Jimmy Lee, director of public affairs for the Contra Costa County Sheriff. “At this stage we’re still gathering information.”
Ruiz said that Livingston and his staff have been receptive to their ideas and information.
“We’re mainly trying to figure out where their dealbreakers are,” Ruiz said. “Where they’re not willing to budge and where they’re willing to.”
Richmond’s City Council and Police Department already have a policy not to cooperate with Secure Communities. But since a detainer is placed on people at the jails, which are operated by the sheriff, the city’s position is more symbolic than practical, Ruiz said.
Even if the sheriff revises the policy on Secure Communities, the county still leases beds at its West County Detention Facility to ICE as part of a contract that dates to the mid-1980s, Assistant Sheriff Matt Schuler said in an interview at the West County jail.