Soapbox

Sacramento County must end inhumane treatment of immigrants under ICE contract

Activists deliver a public records request in March to the Sacramento County sheriff's department seeking communications with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Activists deliver a public records request in March to the Sacramento County sheriff's department seeking communications with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. rbyer@sacbee.com

On Tuesday, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is to vote whether to renew a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for space at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center.

We urge supervisors to vote no.

The current contract between ICE and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department incentivizes mass detention that traumatizes immigrants, jeopardizes their basic health and safety and undermines meaningful access to counsel.

Rhonda Rios Kravitz.jpg
Rhonda Rios Kravitz

The conditions for immigrants at Rio Cosumnes are unacceptable. An inspection conducted by ICE in 2015, but released to the public only under a court order, identified 49 deficiencies in 15 out of 16 standard areas, including environmental health and safety, food service, use of force and medical care.

About a year after that inspection, a detainee was paralyzed after jumping off a second-floor balcony to try to kill himself. In a lawsuit against the county and the U.S. government, he argued that his pleas for medication for depression were ignored.

Rita M. Cepeda

Detaining immigrants is contrary to our fundamental values of due process and liberty and serves only to spread fear and tear apart local families. Sacramento County cannot continue to be a party to this broken and unjust system. A more humane approach is to invest in supervised release, case management and community support programs.

Opinion

Under the Trump administration, not only are more people being detained, fewer people are being released. Immigration detention is driven by profit and politics, not public safety. According to the founding director of ICE’s Office of Detention Policy and Planning, detained immigrants often receive worse treatment and fewer protections than criminals serving prison sentences.

ICE rarely divulges details about how the detention facilities are managed without a court order. The National Immigrant Justice Center obtained the inspections for Rio Cosumnes and other centers through a federal court order after three years of litigation under the Freedom of Information Act.

The lack of transparency creates a fertile ground for abuses and rights violations. As immigrants are detained for longer periods, their physical and mental health deteriorates.

How we treat detained immigrants says a lot about who we are as a country and who we want to be for future generations. Immigrants, documented and undocumented, contribute to Sacramento County through entrepreneurship, involvement in local culture and politics and through paying taxes. Being true to the American spirit means ending the ICE contract.

Rhonda Ríos Kravitz and Rita M. Cepeda are co-founders of Step Up!, which represents human rights, education and social justice organizations. They can be contacted at rhondarioskravitz@gmail.com and ritam.cepeda@yahoo.com, respectively.

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