Dozens of protesters gathered in Martinez on Wednesday evening, and their target was a top law enforcement official who does not agree with a bill that would prevent his office from cooperating with federal immigration agents.
The protesters were criticizing Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston for his opposition to a proposed sanctuary bill. Protester Mimi Elias says lives are at stake.
"This is tearing families apart," she said. "People don’t believe that they can rely on the police or the sheriff to fix their problems."
The issue touches close to home for Elias. She said her sister Yasmin is an undocumented immigrant and an unreported victim of domestic violence.
"Unfortunately, she turned to alcohol to cope with all the pain," Elias said of her sister.
That led to an arrest on alcohol and drug-related charges. Elias said the mother of three has been detained at the West County jail in North Richmond under ICE for the past year and a half.
Elias says she now fears her sister will be deported to Mexico.
"She hasn’t been there since she was four; she doesn’t know Mexico at all," Elias said.
Elias along with dozens of other protesters crowded into elevators inside the Contra Costa County administration building and went up to the seventh floor lobby outside Livingston’s office.
Livingston opposes SB 54, a proposed state law that would prohibit state and local law enforcement from making their resources available to federal authorities to investigate and arrest suspected undocumented immigrants.
"We are here peacefully to ask the sheriff why he is in Sacramento lobbying against a statewide piece of legislation that would protect immigrants from President Trump," protester Gabriel Halland said.
The group was told the sheriff wasn’t available. But sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee says the bill goes too far.
"It could compromise public safety," he said. "Specifically, it would prohibit law enforcement from even talking to ICE or sharing information with federal law enforcement agencies."
Lee said the county has a contract with the U.S. Marshal’s Office to house detainees at the jail in Richmond, and the county receives about $6 million a year under that contract.
The sanctuary bill could be up for a full senate vote as early as Friday.