Back to What's New

Martinez: Protesters again call on sheriff to change stance on immigration

MARTINEZ — About 45 people joined Wednesday outside, and inside, the Contra Costa County administration building, protesting Sheriff David Livingston’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities and his opposition to a proposed state law that would make that cooperation more difficult.

The protesters, from all over Contra Costa and from various immigrants-rights and union groups, gathered at noon also to protest the county’s cooperation with the federal authorities to house detainees taken in local raids. The county has a contract with the U.S. Marshal’s Office to house detainees, mostly taken by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, at the West County Detention Facility in North Richmond. That contract pays the county approximately $6 million a year, according to Contra Costa Sheriff’s spokesman Jimmy Lee.

“There’s an ongoing controversy about the Sheriff’s Department being entangled with the ICE actions,” said Jon Rodney of the California Immigrant Policy Center in Oakland, who was at Wednesday’s rally.

After a 25-minute gathering outside, most of those present Wednesday crowded into elevators and packed the seventh-floor lobby of the Sheriff’s Office calling to meet with the sheriff or a top lieutenant. Unsuccessful, the group chanted “Shame, shame!” and “We’ll be voting in 2018” and then went back down to the ground floor, where they spent 20 more minutes trying to engage Jimmy Lee, the Sheriff’s public information officer, who said little to them.

The protesters Wednesday, varying widely in age and representing several immigrant-rights groups, faith groups and social action groups, also heard from Mimi Elias, the sister of Yazmin Elias, a woman from Santa Rosa who has been detained for over a year at the West County jail under ICE. Mimi talked about the pain of deportation, the threat hanging over undocumented immigrants, and, along with the other protesters, demanded Yasmin’s release.

The protesters also declared their support of SB 54, which would, among other things, prohibit state and local law

enforcement agencies from making their resources available to federal authorities to investigate and arrest suspected undocumented immigrants. It could be up for a full Senate vote as early as Friday.

Lee said Wednesday that Livingston and many law enforcement officials oppose SB 54 mostly because it restricts how local and federal police can talk and work with each other. “These are not our cases, our detainees; deputies don’t ask people about their immigration status,” he said.

Pam Ramirez of Richmond and Barbara Farhner of Walnut Creek have both been making their feelings known in public since the Vietnam War days. The women, 68 and 74 respectively, were outside the Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday decrying the treatment of immigrants, saying it betrays what the United States is about.

“Most of these folks are very industrious, and these people do the jobs other people won’t do,” Farhner said.

Wednesday’s was not the first such rally calling Livingston to task. On Jan. 25, an estimated 150 people marched to protest county law enforcement leaders’ cooperation with federal immigration authorities. And on Feb. 8, about 40 people protested Livingston taking part in a meeting between California law enforcement officials and then-newly-minted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions about immigration issues.

Angela Chan, an attorney with the Asian Law caucus, vowed it will continue, and aimed her words at Livingston. “We’re here to fight you every step of the way,” she said.

Sam Richards
East Bay Times

Stay Connected