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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Kim's attorney, Anoop Prasad of the Asian Law Caucus, was eventually able to have the deportation case dismissed because Kim had been pardoned in 2005. The problem was that his attorney in Georgia never took the extra step of having the deportation order taken off his record.

But Kim and his attorney say what happened next was shocking. Just before he was released by ICE, guards told him to switch uniforms because he was going to be sent to a different jail in Contra Costa. The sheriff's office there wanted him arrested for violating the terms of the custody alternative program.

Jon Rodney, of the advocacy group California Immigrant Policy Center, says Contra Costa County and ICE put Kim in a "Kafkaesque" situation. First, the sheriff's office handed him over to ICE, then later claimed that it was Kim who had violated the terms of the custody alternative program. They said this was because Kim didn't check in with his sheriff's specialist. But that was only due to the fact that he was being held in jail by ICE.

The Contra Costa Sheriff's Office declined to comment on Kim's case. But according to interviews with immigrants and legal-aid groups, there are others like Kim who have been lured to the sheriff's office in Martinez, under the pretense of a routine check-in, and then tricked and handed over to deportation officers.

Another Surprise Arrest

David Jones came to the U.S. when he was eleven. His family ran a restaurant, but he says growing up in the East Bay was difficult. "We always felt like we were living in our own shadows, because we didn't want people to know we were undocumented," he explained.

After high school, he enrolled in community college, but when his father got sick, he and his mother had to start working full-time to support the family. He says he started drinking partly to cope with stress, but that over the years his drinking turned into alcoholism. He was arrested four times for drinking and driving, which under the Priority Enforcement Program are all deportable offenses.

"I was facing a felony and I realized I could be deported if I'm convicted," Jones said. (The Express agreed not to use his real name, or reveal his birth country, because his immigration case is pending and he fears retaliation on the heels of Donald Trump's election.)

But while he was in custody of the sheriff for drunk driving, ICE did not initiate an immigration hold to arrest him.

After completing a nine-month sentence in jail, as a result of one of his DUI convictions, he also learned that he had an arrest warrant for a failure to appear at a court hearing regarding another DUI case. He says he missed the hearing because he had been enrolled in a rehab program.

With help from the public defender, Jones was able to stay out of jail and, instead, registered in the Contra Costa Sheriff's custody alternative program.

He hoped this would allow him to continue working and treating his alcohol addiction. He had an ankle monitor, which connected to a base station located at his family's home and automatically measured his blood-alcohol. He was also required to check in every few weeks in-person at the facility in Martinez.

But shortly after enrolling in the program, he arrived at the sheriff's building in Martinez for a routine check-in and was ushered to a back room, where Specialist Mary Hooker handed him over to several ICE agents. They immediately strapped handcuffs around his wrists.

"I felt like I was going to be deported that day," he recalled.

Jones was incarcerated in the Contra Costa Sheriff's West County Detention Facility in Richmond, where he awaited a bond hearing.

ICE pays the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office $82 per detainee, per day, to hold people awaiting immigration-court hearings at the West County Detention Facility, according to contracts between the sheriff and Department of Homeland Security. Since 2012, Contra Costa earned more than $22 million, or about $4.4 million a year, by incarcerating federal immigration detainees.

Inside the jail, Jones donned the green-colored uniform that immigration detainees are made to wear. "They just looked at us as if we were all criminals," he said of the guards. "They don't know our stories, our backgrounds."

At his bond hearing, held via video conference with a federal judge in San Francisco, Jones and his attorney argued for his release, saying he'd demonstrated a commitment to addressing his drinking problem by staying sober and that he wasn't a danger to the public. Twelve of his family members showed up in support.

Jones has a grandmother who still lives in the country where he was born, but she is in her 80s. He has no other close family there. He believes he would have trouble adapting if deported.

"It's a life I never really lived. I feel like this is home," he said about the U.S.

Although Jones was able to post bond and get out of the Richmond jail, he still faces a future removal hearing to determine whether he can stay.


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