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Contra Costa Jail Ends Federal Immigration Contract

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Authorities said Tuesday that a Northern California jail will cancel its profitable contract with federal immigration officials to house suspects facing deportation.

The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday became the third local law enforcement agency in California to cut ties in recent months with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials amid continued protests over federal detention policies.

ICE spokesman Richard Rocha says the county's decision will hurt immigration enforcement efforts. He says the agency may have to house inmates further from their relatives.

"Now, instead of being housed close to family members or local attorneys, ICE may have to depend on its national system of detention bed space to place those detainees in locations farther away reducing the opportunities for in-person family visitation and attorney coordination," Rocha said in a statement.

Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston has scheduled a 2:30 p.m. press conference.

ICE houses about 3,800 detainees in California in local jails and one state prison.

ICE pays Contra Costa County $6 million a year to jail up to 200 people a day believed to be living in the United States illegally. ICE has 120 days until the contract is formally terminated.

Sacramento County notified ICE last month it was terminating its contract. Monterey County ended its contract in December.

Activists supported the contract's termination, but called for most detainees to be released from ICE custody while their immigration cases wind through the courts.

"Our perspective is that more families need to be reunified," said Rev. Deborah Lee, executive director of the Oakland-based Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. "We want people released."

Lee and her group have organized protests for several years outside the jail in Richmond, California, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north east of San Francisco. The group conducts a prayer vigil outside the jail once a month seeking the release of detainees while their cases are pending.

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt said most city residents "aren't going to miss ICE."

But the mayor said he was concerned that area detainees will now be held far from the San Francisco Bay Area. The closest ICE detention facility is in Marysville, California, some 110 miles (177 kilometers) northeast of Richmond.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

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