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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Specialist Culley, who facilitated Kim's arrest by ICE agents, was not available during multiple calls to her office.

Jimmy Lee, a spokesman for Livingston, wrote in an email that the sheriff's office would not discuss specific cases. "We can confirm that ICE made an arrest at CAF," he wrote about the facility in Martinez. "We will not discuss another agency's arrest or investigation."

Lee explained that the custody alternative program currently enrolls 470 individuals, compared to about 1,450 inmates incarcerated in the county's three jails.

In 2016, the county held on average 201 individuals at the behest of federal agencies each day, but the sheriff's office wouldn't state exactly how many were ICE detainees.

The sheriff's department also declined to release records pertaining to ICE holds it has honored at its jails, as well as records of other types of cooperation between sheriff's employees and ICE agents to identify and detain immigrants, such as the surprise arrests experienced by Kim and Jones.

These practices and policies by Contra Costa law-enforcement agencies go against major trends in criminal justice, which emphasize less incarceration and more rehabilitation, argued Rodney of the Immigrant Policy Center. "Here we have people on probation, but they're being sucked into the prison system and punished with deportation. It's really damaging to the idea of second chances."

Hussain, of the Asian Law Caucus, said the county's actions have already created fear among immigrants. "They should not be involved at all with ICE," she said, emphasizing that immigration violations are civil matters, not criminal ones.

David Jones is convinced that, without the help of a private attorney, he would have already been deported. "But it depletes your resources, when you're locked up, and you lose everything," he said about his time in ICE custody.

Amy Smith is less hopeful about her situation. She suspects she will lose her immigration case and be sent to Thailand. And she questions whether, after the election of Trump, California will protect immigrants — or ramp up cooperation with federal deportation agents.

Yet she wants to stay here in her home state. "I don't label myself. I'm not Thai, not American," she said. "I identify with California. I want to be a Californian."


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