Under The Values Act (SB 54), the California Department of Justice reports data from law enforcement agencies on the transfers of community members to immigration authorities such as ICE for immmigration purposes. The reporting covers the years of 2018 and 2019. The data on transfers provided under SB 54, once visualized, offers insights into how local law enforcement agencies have collaborated with immmigration authorities in the last two years and highlights the communities that are likely most impacted by these policies. What the data does not show, however, is how these policies have impacted individual immigrant families throughout the state and the long-term effects of family separation through immigration detention.
Note: The deportation defense work of Centro Legal de la Raza is mainly focused on the Northern California region. This region encompasses what once used to be the jurisdiction of the San Francisco immigration court, from Kern County to the Oregon border, and the immigration detention facilities located within this region. The subsequent analysis tends to focus on this region and facilities. Furthermore, the visualized data is based on the numerical count of transfers where the reporting law enforcement agency indicated transfers as “TRUE”.
The SB 54 data for 2018 shows two major hot spots for transfers to immigration authorities: Los Angeles County and San Diego County. Los Angeles County alone reported 964 transfers amounting to 47.30% of the total, while San Diego County reported 423 transfers comprising 20.76% of the total. These two counties alone accounted for nearly 70% of all reported transfers in the state, thus denoting extensive collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and immigration authorities.
In Northern California, counties that previously held contracts to host two ICE detention facilities at county jails reported a significant number of transfers. West County Detention Facility (CoCo) in Contra Costa County and Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center (RCCC) in Sacramento County were previously contracted by ICE to detain community members. Both contracts were ended in 2018 after significant pressure from a broad coalition of impacted families, the community, and advocates. Although Yuba County Jail (Yuba) in Yuba County still remains in operation, the county did not report any transfers in 2018. The counties of Sacramento, Alameda, and Contra Costa reported 99, 102, and 114 transfers respectively, which is exponentially more than any of the surrounding counties. There seems to be some correlation between the location of immigration detention facilities and counties with a higher number of transfers in Northern California; the physical proximity of these detention facilities facilitates transfers to immigration detention by law enforcement agencies within these counties. This trend largely aligns with what local advocates were seeing on the ground at the time and resulted in significant opposition to the policies adopted by local law enforcement agencies collaborating with ICE. As the interactive graph shows, sheriff’s offices throughout the state are largely responsible for these transfers into immigration detention.
Surprisingly, and perhaps even shockingly, a very low number of transfers or none at all were reported in counties in the Central Valley and the Central Coast. In particular, Kern County reported “0” transfers to immigration authorities despite the fact that GEO Group operates the Mesa Verde Detention Facility (MVDF) in Bakersfield (Kern County). The private facility has a bed capacity of 400 and based on recently released data by ICE, the facility has a “mandatory minimum” of 325 beds that need to be occupied at any given time. In 2018, an undergraduate research team at UC Davis helped collect information on immigration arrest locations and transfers for unrepresented individuals served at the San Francisco immigration court that year. The 616 community members served were more than likely less than 50% of all individuals in need of assistance at the court in 2018 (less than 40% of detained court dockets had a volunteer attorney present to provide legal assistance). Nonetheless, the mapping project demonstrated that the immigration detention pipeline had a heavy presence in the Central Valley and the Central Coast and numerous immigration arrests in those counties resulted in community members being detained at MVDF, CoCo, RCCC, and Yuba. See the maps in PDF pages 19 and 20.
What accounts for the discrepancy between the reported SB 54 transfers and the significant number of immigration arrests identified in the Central Valley and the Central Coast? If given the benefit of the doubt, then perhaps local law enforcement agencies did not make any transfers that had to be reported. It could also be that since it was the first year of implementation, the data set was not as accurate, but even under this scenario Los Angeles county managed to report nearly 1,000 transfers. Whatever the cause may be, it is clear that ICE operated in these counties without any sense of accountability or transparency. These immigration arrests could only be identified by directly speaking to community members at the immigration court or detention facilities and not through a state reporting mechanism. It is also possible that ICE could have utilized different tactics to circumvent this reporting requirement. After all, ICE has continually adapted its tactics in the Northern California region in response to advances made by the community and has demonstrated a penchant to circumvent laws enacted by the state.