by Sam Davis and Julie Litwin
CIVIC Visitation Terminated
On March 5, 2018 the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office stopped volunteers from the organization Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) from visiting immigrants detained at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) in Richmond. Since 2011 CIVIC, a national organization working to end the isolation and abuse of people in ICE detention, has provided a free hotline to detainees and volunteers that visit the center weekly to help connect those inside with crucial legal services and to facilitate communications with families, friends and support systems on the outside. CIVIC believes that the abrupt termination of the hotline and visitation program occurred in retaliation for CIVIC’s reporting of complaints by 27 women incarcerated at WCDF about poor conditions and abuses in the facility. This action was taken the day prior to Jeff Sessions’ visit to California to file suit against California’s sanctuary laws, including AB103, a bill that CIVIC helped to draft, which provides for monitoring of detention facilities by the California Attorney General. Kehilla joined a host of congregations and organizations signing on to a letter from the ACLU protesting the termination of CIVIC’s programs. Meanwhile, many of those in detention at WCDF have lost an important avenue to connect with legal assistance and with loved ones outside.
Supreme Court Decision Slashes Bond Hearings for Detainees
In a heartbreaking development for one of the families that Immigration Committee members have been accompanying, Rafael Tolento was deported on March 13th. Several Kehilla members accompanied his family to immigration court on February 27th. His lawyer and family fully expected that he would be granted bond that day and would be released to his family while he continued to pursue his case. However, that very morning, the Supreme Court issued a disastrous decision in a case called Jennings v. Rodriguez. Instead of being released on bond, Rafael and his family were told by the judge that this type of bond hearing was no longer an option and that she no longer had jurisdiction.
As background, ICE detentions in the US have grown precipitously over time. Due to the backlog of cases, many detainees are held for a year to several years before their cases are heard. These are civil, not criminal cases, and the individuals being detained are not being punished for any crime and do not have a right to an attorney. Once given the chance to be heard, many of those detained ultimately win their cases, but it is extremely painful for them to endure the prolonged time and conditions of detention and for their their families to survive without them. Prior to the recent Supreme Court decision, ICE was required to provide a bond hearing to a large group of detainees who met certain criteria every 6 months. On February 27th the Supreme Court ruled that the current statutes actually do not permit bond hearings for these detainees.
The result of the Jennings v. Rodriguez decision for Rafael, and for thousands of immigrant detainees like him across the U.S., is that they no longer have any right to a bond hearing and can be held indefinitely. In a rare move, Justice Breyer read part of his dissent from the bench, pointing out that “…[in] the words of the Declaration of Independence, all men and women have ‘certain unalienable Rights,’ and that among them is the right to liberty,” which this decision denies indefinitely to immigrants imprisoned by ICE.
Dispirited by having already spent six months behind bars, Rafael chose to be voluntarily deported back to Mexico.
For more information about the Kehilla Immigration Committee’s monthly protests at the West County Detention Facilility, visit https://www.facebook.com/letourpeoplego/.
For more information about the Kehilla Immigration Committee, contact ImmigrationCommitteeChairs@kehillasynagogue.org