Dozens of immigrant rights activists rallied outside the San Francisco U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office Wednesday to denounce the transfer of several detained immigrants from a Richmond jail to out-of-state detention centers.
The transfers come after the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office terminated its contact with ICE to hold detained immigrants at the West County Detention Facility.
Contra Costa Sheriff David Livingston announced the termination of the county's contract with ICE last month, explaining that it had become expensive and time consuming to manage protests outside the facility brought on by the activists.
Several of the detainees have been taken to facilities in Washington and Colorado, without any advance warning to the detainees' families, some family members alleged today at the rally.
"ICE transferred in the most atrocious and inhumane way all community members detained at West County out of state, further away from their communities, their families and legal counsel," said organizer Adriana Barraza, whose husband, Fernando Carrillo, was detained and eventually released from ICE custody earlier this year.
Barraza added, "This is an absolute obstruction of justice and a neglect of immigrants' right to due process. Many of them had bond hearings coming up, where they had opportunities to be released and, unfortunately, those bond hearings have now been canceled due to their transfer."
The activists are demanding that ICE release the detainees instead of transferring them back to the West County Detention Center.
"ICE continues to retaliate because of our power; our community power; our power to shut down the inhumane West County Detention Facility. ... But just like we shut down this inhumane detention center, the power of community can bring back our community members. They need to be back with their loved ones and at home in freedom," Barraza said.
The activists have been coordinating with activists in Tacoma, Washington, and Aurora, Colorado, where most of the Bay Area detainees have been transferred.
According to Dianeth Lopez, her husband, Raul Lopez, a 46-year-old Guatemalan national who was living in Richmond, has been detained in ICE custody for 18 months. Two months ago, she said he was transferred to Colorado from the Richmond jail without any warning.
"He called me a day before (he was transferred)... Then he didn't call until Sunday, which I thought was weird, and said that that's where he was. He said he and the other detainees hadn't been told anything. They (sheriff's deputies) just told them to 'come with us.' He thought they were going to set him free," Dianeth Lopez said.
"I've talked to him. He's very sad because, at least over there in Richmond, we could see him every month with an appointment. And now with two months that have gone by without seeing him, it's very difficult," she said.
The couple has two teenage children together.
Activists at the rally also showed up to support two immigrants who had hearings scheduled Wednesday.
A bond hearing Wednesday morning for Icela Aguilar's brother Hugo Aguilar turned out to be bittersweet.
Hugo Aguilar, a 40-year-old Mexican national living in Oakland, has been detained for nearly 17 months. On Wednesday morning, a judge granted him a bond, allowing for his release once the bond is paid. The bond, however, is for $80,000.
"Thank God today we had a victory for my brother. But this isn't the end. We need to keep fighting for all these people who have been detained," Icela Aguilar said.
"The bond is very high and it's going to be hard for us," she said. "We're trying to get home as soon as possible. ... I still haven't been able to hug him."
A hearing that was also scheduled for Wednesday for Misael Quezada Flores, who was transferred to Colorado last week after being jailed in Richmond for nearly 17 months, was canceled in the afternoon.
According to organizer Sarah Lee, Wednesday was set to be Quezada Flores' last hearing in his asylum case and would've determined his release. Quezada Flores was scheduled to appear via telephone conference at the hearing, but technical difficulties caused the hearing to be postponed for later this week.
"The judge is going to decide how to move forward," she said. "This is evidence of how the transfers are already affecting how cases are being heard."