Ambushed: Contra Costa County Law Enforcement Sets Up Surprise Stings To Help Federal Immigration Agents Arrest and Deport Immigrants 

"Local law enforcement should not be involved in these kinds of activities."

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After leaving ICE custody, his attorney says the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office initially refused to re-enroll him in the custody alternative program. According to Jones, his case manager told him he was no longer eligible because the sheriff's office was treating his arrest by ICE, and the immigration case pending against him, as a new offense and a violation. As a result, the sheriff kept him detained in the facility in Richmond for another week.

Jones said he feels that the sheriff's office and immigration authorities are treating his alcohol addiction as an excuse to deport him. If forced to leave the U.S., he fears that he won't be able to access affordable treatment for his problem, and that his family will suffer as a result.

Only after his public defender argued his case with the sheriff did they relent and allow him back into the program. His felony DUI was subsequently reduced to a misdemeanor.

'Just to Touch Base'

Amy Smith wasn't planning on staying in America. She attended college in the United States in the late 1980s before moving back to Thailand, where she was born. But in 2002, she flew back to California on a tourist visa. She met a man. They began dating and struck up a long-term relationship. She started working, too, and applied for permanent residency, but was denied. She ended up over-staying her visa, figuring that her relationship was headed toward marriage, and that she would gain citizenship status in a few years.

But one day, she got into a fight with her boyfriend. She was arrested and convicted of domestic violence in 2013, according to law enforcement records. Her eventual sentence was three years' probation.

She completed anger-management classes, wasn't arrested again, and assumed that her probation term would be over by the end of 2016. In fact, she wasn't even required to report to a probation officer.

But then, out of the blue, she was contacted by a Contra Costa Probation Officer who identified himself as "Pat."

According to Smith (also not her real name), Pat told her she needed to come to Martinez "just to touch base." When she arrived, Pat led her to room where two ICE agents immediately strapped handcuffs on her.

According to ICE records, the agents drove her in a "caged vehicle" to the Sansome Street jail and court complex, where she was put in a cell with two Spanish-speaking women. Smith scrambled to contact a friend to help her make bail, succeeding just before the deadline, when she would have been shipped off to another longer-term holding facility, either in Richmond or Yuba.

Smith said she always trusted police, feeling that the system was more or less fair. "I now see law enforcement in a different light," she told the Express. She said she felt deceived by the probation officer, who made no mention of anything concerning immigration laws when he asked her to come to his office.

According to Probation Department records obtained through a Public Records Act request, her experience was one of multiple surprise arrests that Contra Costa probation officers have set up over the past year at their office at 50 Douglas Drive in Martinez.

In some cases, ICE agents contacted probation officers to set up an arrest. But in other cases, probation officers were the ones initiating contact with ICE, seeking information about people under their supervision — and in some cases even advocating that ICE agents deport people.

The setup for Smith's arrest appears in one of the emails obtained by the Express.

On September 15, 2016, ICE Deportation Officer Andrew Kaskanlian wrote to Probation Officer Patrick Gallagher asking if Smith was on active probation. Gallagher replied that she was, and added in a different email that she wasn't obligated to report to any probation officer.

"I'm sure we could call her in if needed," Gallagher offered.

"It would be awesome if we could get her to report," the ICE agent replied.

According to the email chain, Gallagher then called Smith and asked her to report to his office. He wrote back to the ICE agent the next day: "She is all yours when she gets here."

"Beautiful," the ICE agent replied.

Gallagher set up other surprise arrests for ICE agents. On April 4, 2016, he wrote to ICE Deportation Officer Rui Guan, offering up the name and date-of-birth of a person under probation's supervision. He asked if ICE had more information on the man. The deportation officer ran the information and found that the individual was a non-citizen who had been previously deported, and had been convicted for possessing drugs and driving drunk in the past.

"We would like to deport this individual," the ICE agent replied.

According to the email records, Gallagher then called the man to come to the probation department's Martinez office on April 13, when the ICE agents would by lying in wait.

When Gallagher checked in with ICE on April 11, to make sure they were still coming to arrest the man, he offered up yet another probationer. "I also have another guy you might be interested in," he wrote, based on information he accessed from CLETs, a California law-enforcement database.

The ICE agent ran the second man's name, but informed Gallagher the individual was legally in the country.

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