Richmond Supports Freedom for Immigrants Program

Richmond Supports Freedom for Immigrants Program

The Richmond City Council recently adopted a resolution in support of Freedom for Immigrants, a visiting program and hotline at the West County Detention Facility operated by nonprofit CIVIC. In February, Sheriff Livingston abruptly terminated this program following CIVIC’s public criticism of conditions at the facility.

In November, CIVIC published a letter last November detailing abuses at the jail. The abuses received widespread media coverage and calls for investigations, including from Representative Mark DeSaulnier.

According to CIVIC, “On February 15, ICE terminated CIVIC’s free hotline with no advance warning or subsequent explanation. CIVIC has been operating this hotline since 2011, and uses it to facilitate visits and legal representation. Shortly thereafter, on February 20, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office suspended CIVIC visitation program coordinator Rebecca Merton’s visitation clearance with no clear explanation. After pressing the Sheriff’s Office for a reason, CIVIC leadership received an email on Monday from Captain Kristi Butterfield of WCDF, explaining that the Sheriff’s Office was revoking access for all CIVIC volunteers and terminating the visitation program at WCDF."

CIVIC notes that “the visitation program ban came the day before Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed a suit against California’s sanctuary laws, including AB 103, which CIVIC helped draft and provides the California state Attorney General with the power to monitor ICE detention facilities in the state. In Sessions’ complaint, he explicitly names the West County Detention Facility as a place he does not want the state monitoring.”

This week, the El Cerrito City Council will be considering a resolution similar to the one Richmond passed, expressing support for this program.