Boos, drum beats and cheers of solidarity could be heard through the streets of downtown Marysville on Saturday as hundreds of people gathered on the steps of the Yuba County Jail to protest the use of the facility as an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center.
Tsuru for Solidarity, a nonviolent, direct action project of Japanese American social justice advocates that work to end detention center sites and support front-line immigrant and refugee communities, organized the protest along with other activist groups from across Northern California.
According to Josh Kaizuka, co-president of the Florin Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and one of the event organizer, over 28 organizations from the Bay Area, Sacramento Valley and even Humboldt participated in the rally.
According to a release issued by Tsuru for Solidarity on Friday, the protest sought to end Yuba County’s contract allowing ICE to use the Yuba County Jail for immigrant detention as well as to end the inhumane conditions at the jail which have sparked multiple hunger strikes and suicide attempts by people incarcerated there, the release said.
“We are here to add our voice and unite with all of you to demand a hand to stop the inhumane treatment of detainees and to end the indefinite ICE contract here in Yuba County,” said Kaizuka. “We are here to add our voice and unite with all of you to demand that this administration end the trauma being inflicted on families and children by shutting down all the camps.”
Several representative from other local activist groups spoke at the rally as well, including Carlos, a representative from the Wheatland based activism group Estamos Unidos, which was established just a few months years ago with the goal of ending the ICE contract with the Yuba County Jail.
The Yuba County Sheriff’s Office has had a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement since the 1990s, which has generated about $5 million in revenue annually in recent years, according to Appeal-Democrat archives. If the jail continues with its average of 182 ICE detainees each day, the contract could generate around $6.5 million per year. The department has said in past interviews with the Appeal-Democrat that the revenue from the contract is critical to department operations.
The contract only requires the jail be a housing facility and the department maintains that it does not engage in undocumented enforcement or transportation. Detainees housed at the jail are typically awaiting immigration proceedings in San Francisco.
While those in attendance of the rally were strongly opposed to the ICE contact, not all are in agreement with the opinions voice during Saturday’s protest.
“To give into these misguided demands is dangerous in addition to being bad public policy,” said Assemblyman James Gallagher in a statement on Facebook on Friday. “The individuals held here have committed crimes, many of them very serious crimes, in addition to being in the county illegally. To close this facility would mean their release back into society to victimize again. It has happened already too much and we cannot allow it continue.”