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Dozens Gather for Trilingual Community Forum on Deportation

The forum was the second in a series launched by Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights.

Submitted by Congregations Organizing for Renewal

Dozens of Hayward area residents braved the rainy weather this past Saturday morning to join a trilingual community forum.

What brought them together in spite of the downpour?

A call for Alameda County to heal the painful impact of a controversial deportation program. 

Using both high-tech headsets and old-fashioned pen and paper, speakers of English, Spanish, and Tagalog discovered shared experiences with their neighbors. A common thread: when local law enforcement gets entangled with dysfunctional federal immigration policies, families, communities and public safety all suffer. 

The forum is the second in a series launched by the Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights (ACUDIR) coalition in the wake of the November election, in which Latino and Asian-American voters made the difference in key contests across the nation. 

In fact, Alameda County had one of the highest percentages of progressive votes in the state, from President to Prop 30.

So it might surprise you that the same County has also helped deport 1,734 residents under the misnamed "Secure" Communities deportation program - one of the highest numbers in northern California. 

Since the election, we've seen heightened calls for an approach to immigration that reflects core values like keeping families together, strengthening communities, and upholding the principal that all are created equal. 

Forum participants say that begins right here at home. 

Under the federal "Secure" Communities or S-Comm program, the fingerprints of everyone arrested are automatically sent to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, long before folks have had their day in court. ICE then asks local jails to hold people for extra time, beyond the point they would otherwise be released and back with their loved ones, just so they can be picked up for deportation. Because of this, food vendors, survivors of domestic violence, and many other community members have been taken from their families and deported.  

And who picks up the tab for these extended detentions in local jails? 

Our own local governments. 

That's one of the many reasons there's been an uproar against the program. 

In fact, Cook County, IL (home to Chicago, and President Obama) does not respond to a single request from ICE to hold people for extra time. The President of the County's powerful board of supes says it's an issue of basic equality. 

And now, a movement of Alameda County residents is calling for the County to follow Cook County's example on this vital issue. The City of Berkeley and neighboring Santa Clara County already have similar policies. 

Residents at the forum included constituents of Supervisors Richard Valle and Nate Miley. Many hailed from unincorporated areas policed by Sheriff Greg Ahern. 

It's safe to say these officials will be hearing more from this diverse group of newly-energized constituents.

Residents also are urging Governor Jerry Brown to fulfill his promise to champion a revamped version of the TRUST Act, state legislation which would also put limits on these unfair detentions - across the state. (Despite vetoing the broadly supported bill, the Gov. promised to work on a revised version "forthwith.)

The stakes are high for us all. In the words of one participant at Saturday’s forum, "People who are victims of crime say silent," due to the S-Comm program. Another described the constant fear of the police, while yet another participant called on the group to take action: “Many times it’s difficult to being organizing, but that’s what we need to do.  We have to unite, to defend ourselves—we are an incredible force.”

ACUDIR organizations include: Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Causa Justa::Just Cause, California Immigrant Policy Center, Centro Legal de la Raza, Congregations Organizing for Renewal, Filipino Advocates for Justice, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, East Bay Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Street Level Health Project, Oakland Community Organizations, Alliance for Justice, National Lawyers Guild, Alameda County Paul Robeson Chapter of the Northern California ACLU.

cinthya November 22, 2012 at 05:46 AM
Incredible work happening in alameda county, Hope that the Board of Supervisors takes notice. They should not continue to approve the Sheriff Department's current receipt of County and state funding if it continues to voluntarily detain immigrants at taxpayer cost. In Fiscal Year 2011, there were a national record number of deportations, 400,000, more than any year before. The federal government is able to deport record numbers due to increased reliance on local criminal justice systems including Alameda County. In particular, this reliance has been implemented through the federal Secure Communities program. This reliance comes at a cost to local governments. Individuals who are of interest to immigration authorities and are in the County jail after arrest have ICE detainers. Despite these detainers being voluntary, people are held on ICE detainers in Santa Rita Jail to be ultimately turned over to the federal government.
cinthya November 22, 2012 at 05:48 AM
County data shows that the Sheriff's Department holds on average 510 inmates with ICE detainers per year. They remain in custody an average of 7 days longer than other inmates. 64% of them are not charged with a crime. This means that each year at least 3,572 beds will be used for individuals with a detainer. Many of these individuals would have been released including through their own recognizance or bail, but for the ICE detainer. Based on this data and daily average it costs the County to house an inmate, it approximately costs the Sheriff's Department a total of $382,239.00 per year to hold persons with detainers. If you look at federal data, in 2009 alone the federal government reported that 1729 persons in Santa Rita jail had ICE detainers. So there is a discrepancy in the data. This is more than triple the data reported by the Sheriff's Department so would result in additional monies being spent. I raise this issue because i think it is important that the County examine what monies are being expended on a federal immigration enforcement which are not mandatory and which are not being fully reimbursed by the federal government. At this year's budget forum, it was reported that federal SCAAP funding, a federal reimbursement to the Sheriff's Department, is significantly being cut. Importantly, in a time of budget cuts, these monies could be used for much needed local programs and not for federal programs. Looking forward to some much needed change.
Silvia Brandon Pérez November 22, 2012 at 06:01 AM
1. There are no illegal human beings. 2. People are forced to come to the US because we destroy their economies. 3. We bring law enforcement people from other countries (see School of the Americas, www.soaw.org) and train them to torture their citizens. SOA graduates have been responsible for 14 coups in Latin America. 4. Our so-called prison system, part of the military-industrial complex, is now being misused so that private prisons become rich at taxpayer expense. The conditions of some of these places are atrocious. 5. Be so kind as to educate yourselves (this goes to some of the posters, not to the Patch), before you make ignorant and inane remarks. 6. There is very little opportunity for people to come to the US as what you call 'legal' immigrants. The system is completely broken. 7. Alameda County is part of Mexican territory which was forcibly taken from Mexico after the so-called Mexican-American war, which was just an imperialist, colonialist plot to steal land.
Mike November 22, 2012 at 08:03 AM
So what about all of the undocumented Joses on the east coast? Was Boston, New York, or Washington ever part of Mexico?
Timothy Swenson November 22, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Oh, where to start.... "1. There are no illegal human beings. " Technically correct, but humans can commit illegal acts. Those that cross borders without proper authorization become "illegal immigrants." All countries, including Mexico, have border controls and do enforce them. "4. Our so-called prison system, part of the military-industrial complex.." I think it would take a long dissertation to make that phrase make sense. "7. Alameda County is part of Mexican territory" and Mexico is part of Spanish territory. New England is part of British territory. New Orleans is part of French territory,...... And was Spain/Mexico coming into California an "imperialist, colonialist plot to steal land."? You accuse others of "ignorant and inane remarks" when you seem to do the same.

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