Updated: Mar 2, 2022
For immediate release: August 20, 2020
Local Rapid Response Networks Report ICE Resuming Arrests in Northern California
2020.08.20 – In the first half of August, Rapid Response Networks in Northern California confirmed four arrests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), after a period in which the agency significantly reduced detentions in the community. Local networks supported by the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ) responded to four arrests made by ICE in Sonoma and Napa counties from August 4-10. The cluster of ICE activity, which took place after a period of nearly five months in which only one community arrest in Northern California was confirmed, coincides with the recent resignation of ICE Director Matthew T. Albence. Albence reportedly clashed with the Trump administration over his supposedly “humanitarian” decision to reduce enforcement during the pandemic.
The four individuals assisted by CCIJ all had unexecuted orders of removal, a particularly vulnerable group that can be deported the same day they are detained in some cases. Katie Kavanagh, Lead Rapid Response Attorney and Interim Legal Director of CCIJ, provided emergency legal consultations to each of the individuals at the ICE processing center and was able to intervene to stop two of the four deportations, including the case of a 60 year-old grandmother.
“When ICE detains someone, deportation can happen within a matter of hours in cases such as last week’s,” said Kavanagh. “Early legal intervention is critical to protecting due process and keeping families together. Rapid response networks are the crucial link between communities and attorneys.”
For months, advocates warned of the inevitable spread of COVID-19 if ICE continued arresting, transporting and transferring individuals between facilities. The resumption of ICE arrests in the community comes at a time when detention centers in Northern and Central California are seeing a massive outbreak of COVID-19, driven in part by the transfer of individuals in and out of these facilities.
This past week dozens of individuals tested positive for COVID-19 in the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, with a federal judge noting ICE’s “deliberate indifference” to the threat posed by the pandemic. As a result of the inevitable spread of the virus, Mesa Verde Detention Facility is under court order to not admit any new detainees and Yuba County Jail is admitting very few. In response, ICE has started to transfer California residents to facilities out-of-state. The result is that California residents are detained far from their families and communities, and are unable to receive free legal assistance they would otherwise have access to in California.
The resumption of ICE arrests in the community and the ongoing practice of jail and prison transfers to ICE poses a critical threat to health and safety, and further promotes fear and insecurity in immigrant communities, many of which have been particularly impacted by the pandemic.