California county cancels $3 million federal contract to make a statement against ICE

California county cancels $3 million federal contract to make a statement against ICE
Contra Costa County in California ended a $3 million contract to house ICE detainees, saying public protests and other issues led to the move. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A northern California county sacrificed a $3 million federal contract to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees, as the sheriff’s office no longer wants to be associated with the agency’s activities, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Sheriff David Livingston announced the abrupt decision Tuesday, saying public protests and other issues led to the move.

“The outstanding work by the over 1,000 employees of the office of the sheriff has been overshadowed by the attention the ICE contract brings, even though immigration is a matter of federal law,” Livingston told the Chronicle. “Managing protests in Richmond have become expensive and time-consuming for our staff.”

Livingston did not say whether that cost was near the $3 million per year the county will lose out on by cancelling the federal contract.

Bowing to public pressure

Livingston cited protests, and their related costs, as a reason why the county ended its relationship with ICE, and complained that the federal government was not contributing to cover those costs.

Protests have broken out nationwide over the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy for those caught illegally trying to cross the border into the United States. More than 1,000 protesters converged on Contra Costa County’s detention center on June 30 as a part of the national protest over family separations at the border.

Contra Costa County is the second California county to cut ties with ICE within a month, according to the Chronicle. Sacramento County ended its contract last month, with most of its detainees moving to Colorado.

Contra Costa County’s West County Detention Facility housed about 200 ICE inmates as part of an agreement initiated in 2010 to hold illegal immigrants waiting for deportation proceedings.

Now, the county will have to dip into state and county reserve funds to replace the $3 million, which was used to pay for sheriff’s deputies and could result in layoffs if not replaced.

What did ICE say?

Richard Rocha, a spokesman for ICE, said the contract cancellation will cause hardships for the detained immigrants and their families.

“The decision to no longer house ICE detainees at the West County Detention Facility will negatively impact local ICE operations; however, the impact will be greater for those who would have been detained at the facility,” Rocha said, according to the Chronicle. “Now, instead of being housed close to family members or local attorneys, ICE may have to depend on its national system of detention bed space to place those detainees in locations farther away, reducing the opportunities for in-person family visitation and attorney coordination.”