Today, the Alameda County Sheriff announced that it will no longer honor immigration “holds” of any kind.
Under this new policy, undocumented transgender people in Alameda County will no longer be fast-tracked to deportation due to transphobic and racist police profiling. All too often, transgender women of color are arrested without cause for sex work or minor drug possession. Even when the the charges are almost immediately dropped, they are kept in jail because immigration authorities had already placed a “hold.” An immigration hold is a voluntary request for the jail to lock people up based on nothing but a suspicion about the person’s immigration status, usually because of the place of birth listed on the jail intake sheet. If the immigration authorities do not come to arrest the person, they are unnecessarily jailed (often in terrible conditions) after they should have been released. If the immigration authorities DO come to get them, the person is often moved to an immigration detention facility (where transgender people experience horrific mistreatment and abuse) and face deportation (often to a country from which they had fled persecution).
After today, immigration “holds” in Alameda County will no longer be honored and transgender immigrants will be less afraid that any minor interaction with police will lead to deportation.
Transgender Law Center is a member of the Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights coalition and had previously met with Sheriff Ahern about his ICE holds policy as part of the coalition. Transgender Law Center is also involved in national efforts to end Secure Communities and other programs which funnel immigrants into the deportation machinery through local law enforcement.
Press release below:
Immigrant Rights Coalition welcomes Alameda County Sheriff Ahern’s decision to end his department’s unconstitutional and unjust compliance with ICE immigration “holds.”
Oakland – Today, Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern announced that he would completely stop holding people in jail for extra time under unconstitutional and unjust immigration “hold” requests. The policy change comes after years of community advocacy and in the wake of a major federal court decision which has spurred parallel decisions in Monterey, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. These counties join Santa Clara and San Francisco in pushing back on ICE holds through local laws, and build upon the protections of California’s TRUST Act, a state law which placed limits on sheriffs’ assent to the hold requests while warning that each hold risks violating the US Constitution. Sheriff Ahern’s announcement builds on his January memorandum, which limited when Alameda County would assent to ICE hold requests.
Advocates applauded January’s decision, but continued to warn Sheriff Ahern that all ICE holds opened him up to liability and undermined public safety by entangling ICE with local law enforcement.
Although advocates remain concerned that ICE has full access to Santa Rita jail, today’s news is considered a big success and a key victory in the struggle to keep people from getting ensnared in ICE’s deportation dragnet.
In response to the development, the Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights coalition issued the following statement:
“When we fight, we win! Today is a Victorious day for Immigrant communities and the values of due process and equality under the law in this Country. For years, Alameda County families have organized, raised their voices and demanded an end to immigration holds, these have torn apart families, wasted local resources, and threatened the most fundamental principles of the justice system. In February, after much work with community members, the Sheriff took an important step toward ending this injustice by enacting a strong policy to implement the TRUST Act.”
“Today, Alameda county is helping to set a national model of an inclusive approach to public safety that honors constitutional values and can begin to rebuild community confidence in law enforcement. We call for continued dialogue so that we can ultimately end all entanglement between our local law enforcement and the Obama administration’s cruel deportation machinery.”
The federal program has had a disastrous effect on Alameda County, resulting in the detention and deportation of countless family members and heads of household. Alameda County families and communities have been hit particularly hard by the county’s collaboration with ICE. Nearly 2,000 Alameda County residents since 2008 have been deported as a result of S-Comm, and many more are deported due to collaborations with ICE in others forms.
Before today’s announcement, any immigrant in Alameda County could be apprehended, held, and ultimately turned over to ICE authorities for deportation. The holds have had a devastating effect on domestic violence survivors in Alameda County who have been arrested and detained for ICE after calling 911. Immigrants who are survivors and witnesses to crime in Alameda County have often been too fearful to contact local law enforcement officials.
ACUDIR is hopeful that Alameda County’s end of collaboration in immigrant detention and deportation will be one more step in dismantling the unjust deportation system.