As Advocates Prepare for Closing of Private Jails, Case Highlights Power of Community-legal Partnerships to Free Immigrants

October 17, 2019

As Advocates Prepare for Closing of Private Jails, Case Highlights Power of Community-legal Partnerships to Free Immigrants

Companies profit by keeping families separated, but soon private prisons will be phased out of California.

San Francisco, CA -- Yesterday local mom Aida Andrade Amaya was finally released from immigration custody after a nearly 11-month ordeal that highlights the injustice immigrants face. The release came as the result of both community organizing and legal advocacy — with a lawsuit filed in federal court on October 10, 2019 and grassroots fundraising. ICE punitively required a bond even though she won her asylum case. Andrade's release comes as advocates are preparing for the closure of for-profit detention facilities in California under AB 32 — and demanding that all detained people be freed. While Andrade was held at the Yuba County jail under contract with ICE, the community-legal partnership that secured her release has the power to free many people held in private detention as well.

Ten months ago, in the middle of preparation for her asylum case, Aida was yanked out of her home by ICE and imprisoned away from her two children, Mario and Jade. Aida missed Mario's first birthday and wondered every day in prison if he would remember her when she saw him again. ICE detained Aida in November 2018 based on false claims issued in the form of an Interpol Red Notice against her in El Salvador, six years after Aida arrived to the United States.  After hearing from four expert witnesses, listening to Aida’s heart-wrenching testimony, and observing Aida’s zealous community support that consistently packed the courtroom, no reasonable judge could deny Aida protection in the United States.  She was granted asylum and a work permit while in prison, while DHS continued to use the false claims in the Interpol Red Notice to keep Aida detained. 

It wasn't until ICE and the Attorney General faced a federal lawsuit, that they ended the unlawful detention of asylee, mother, and Santa Mateo County resident, Aida Carolina Andrade Amaya. But not before requiring her to pay $3,000. Andrade’s family worried how they would come up with the funds and luckily, the bond was posted by the Bay Area Immigrant Bond Fund, which uses community donations to help detained individuals across the state. 

It’s these types of abuses that led California to pass AB 32, a bill banning for-profit, private prisons from operating in California. “AB 32 is a step in the right direction, a morally right direction. We have to continue to advocate and shut down all prisons, not just private, not just for immigrants, and not just in California — but for all communities of color, and other individuals who have been criminalized, incarcerated, and exploited through this current system,” said Jehan Laner Romero, Aida’s immigration attorney at Pangea Legal Services and an advocate for AB 32.

PRESS RELEASE: Attorneys File Federal Lawsuit; Community Advocates and Local Elected Official Announce ‘No-Cooperation’ in ICE Raids

For immediate release

Attorneys File Federal Lawsuit; Community Advocates and Local Elected Official Announce ‘No-Cooperation’ in ICE Raids

ICE’s announcement that it will not provide attorney access to detained individuals during its planned operations this Sunday have prompted a federal lawsuit from lawyers. The lawsuit seeks to stop ICE from denying access to counsel to Bay Area residents.

Community advocates and SF Supervisor Hillary Ronen call on public officials, employees, and private companies to not facilitate ICE raids in circumvention of due process and people’s right to counsel.

July 13, 2019

Northern California - ACLU attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Pangea Legal Services and other pro bono attorneys seeking access to clients during scheduled ICE raids. With the lawsuit pending, advocates are on high alert and are taking steps to ensure that ICE does not circumvent legal protections through unauthorized detention space. This would not be the first time that ICE has sought additional detention space in California to skirt Sanctuary Laws, which have limited and reduced bed space at inhumane ICE facilities. Previously ICE has utilized airports, hotels, and private parking lots to detain individuals away from public accountability and access to lawyers. Already, local unions and hotel companies have announced a policy of no-cooperation in ICE’s planned raids as a result. Likewise cities across the Bay Area have affirmed that no city agency or employee will cooperate with the planned enforcement action.

“In the city of San Francisco, a city of refuge, which has historically protected immigrants, and allocated funding for immigrant defense, it is deeply concerning that ICE would violate the rights of individuals to an attorney and due process through politically motivated raids,” said Hillary Ronen, San Francisco Supervisor for District 9. “My office stands with the immigrant community and calls on public officials and private companies alike to protect the rights of immigrants by refusing to cooperate in any way with ICE’s policies of family separation.”

Community advocates, unions, Rapid Response Networks, and elected officials, including Supervisor Ronen, are holding a press conference on Saturday, July 13, at 2PM at the San Francisco International Airport. The press conference will inform the immigrant community of available legal resources, hotlines to report ICE activity, and that city employees including employees at the San Francisco International Airport will not provide detention space or special accommodations for ICE. Advocates call upon other airports, as well as public and private entities to no cooperate with ICE.

“It is deeply concerning that ICE is violating people’s right to an attorney by conducting weekend operations and seeking detention space outside of normal processing centers,” said Luis Angel Reyes Savalza, immigration attorney at Pangea Legal Services, and named Plaintiff in the federal lawsuit. “If ICE is incapable of providing basic constitutional safeguards, then ICE has no business conducting unlawful operations, and we will make sure that they don’t.”

Who: “Power, Not Panic” Emergency Action Committee

Where: San Francisco International Airport - “International Garage G”

Time: Saturday July 13, 2019, 2PM


PRESS RELEASE: Federal Judge in Northern California puts ICE on notice, expects access to counsel for detained individuals

For immediate release

Federal Judge in Northern California puts ICE on notice, expects access to counsel for detained individuals

San Francisco, CA. - An Emergency Temporary Restraining Order filed by the ACLU of Northern California on behalf of Pangea Legal Services and other pro bono attorneys challenged access to counsel violations documented in the Bay Area as early as last Sunday and in anticipation of new operations this weekend.

In the decision issued by a federal court judge in California’s Northern District stated, “[T]he Court expects that a noncitizen will not be removed unless and until a reasonable opportunity to talk with an attorney has been provided.” While the judge forewent enjoining ICE, the Court put ICE on notice that it expects the agency to comply with the law and respect people’s right to an attorney.

To ensure compliance with this federal mandate, pro bono attorneys, legal observers, and community advocates will monitor and document any impediments placed by ICE on the right to counsel should mass raids take place in the Bay Area.

“Our mission is clear: wherever ICE processes individuals, our pro bono attorneys will be there - at remote processing centers, at airports, hotels, everywhere,” said Luis Angel Reyes Savalza, immigration attorney at Pangea Legal Services. “The federal judge clearly expects that ICE will provide access to counsel during any planned raids. Should they fail to do so, our attorneys are prepared to take ICE back to federal court. We will monitor this closely”

Rapid response networks remain prepared and available for detained individuals, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please call a rapid response line in your county in the event that you suspect ICE activity, before you publicize on social networks.

Adelanto Ends Its ICE Contract: Pangea Demands Just Closure - Release of Immigrant Detainees


City of Adelanto Terminates ICE Contract with Largest Immigration Prison in California: Legal Advocates Demand the Immediate Release and Reunification of All Detained Immigrants with their Families and Communities

“Our lives don't matter to them. We could die in here and there's nothing we can do."  – Miguel Angel, immigrant detainee  

“I condemn ICE’s programs and the way they work trying to squeeze money out of detained immigrants and their family members. That’s inhumane, really inhumane.” – Walter, brother of an immigrant detainee

On Friday, March 29, 2019, the Adelanto City Council announced the termination of its immigration prison contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the private multi-billion-dollar corporation, GEO Group, that oversees the largest immigration prison in California. The announcement comes after hunger strikes by immigrants, lawsuits, and a report by the California Attorney General exposed the inhumane conditions inside the Adelanto Detention Facility, involving medical neglect, sexual assault, and the deaths of multiple immigrants. Adelanto’s termination was preceded by a series of other cities ending their contracts with ICE and private corporations in California:

  • Orange County ended its contract with ICE at two local jails in the last week

  • The City of McFarland ended its contract with ICE at Mesa Verde Detention Center (operated by GEO Group) in Bakersfield in 2018

  • Contra Costa County ended its contract with ICE at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond in 2018

  • Sacramento County ended its contract with ICE at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove 2018

  • Santa Ana ended its contract with ICE in 2016

Pangea Legal Services and our clients continue to expose the abuse of immigrants in GEO and other private prison facilities. “We want the immediate release of all GEO detainees at Adelanto and reunification with their families and loved ones,” said Jehan Laner Romero, Director of Advocacy at Pangea Legal Services. “Immigration is a civil matter and people do not need to be detained to pursue their cases; their detention is inhumane,” she stated.

One Pangea client, Miguel Angel, stated that for-profit detention centers put immigrant lives at risk: “It's because our lives don't matter to them. We could die in here and there's nothing we can do."

In 2017, the California legislature passed SB 29, the Dignity Not Detention Act, which aimed to halt the growth of private, for-profit immigration prison facilities in the state of California.  This law was passed along with AB 103, which prevents public jails from entering into new contracts with ICE or expanding or modifying existing contracts.

With fewer operational detention centers in California, private corporations like GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly known as “Correction Corporation of America”) are now beginning to sign direct contracts with ICE, circumventing California’s policies that aim to end the for-profit detention of immigrants. “I condemn ICE’s programs and the way they work trying to squeeze money out of detained immigrants and their family members. That’s inhumane, really inhumane,” said Walter, the brother of an immigrant detainee at a GEO prison. “For ICE to argue that they are keeping people in there for that long for any other reason doesn’t make sense to me. They just want to make money out of our families,” he said.

Together with our clients and those directly impacted by immigration detention, Pangea calls for a complete closure of all immigrant prison facilities in California and an end to the practice of imprisoning immigrants nationwide. We call for grassroots campaigns demanding just closures and the release of all immigrants to their loved ones and communities.


FIRE Coalition: Statement Regarding Santa Clara County's Civil Detainer Policy


Statement Regarding Santa Clara County’s Civil Detainer Policy

March 2019

Members of the Forum for Immigrant Rights & Empowerment (FIRE) Coalition, and its supporters, express our profound condolences to the family and loved ones of Bambi Larson who was tragically murdered in San Jose on February 28. We also urge the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and San Jose officials to not distort or politicize this tragedy into an issue regarding immigration by altering the County’s current civil detainer policy. At this time, healing and unity is what is needed rather than attempts to cause division among our County’s residents. We ask our elected officials to keep the County’s current policy intact so that all community members - regardless of immigration status - can feel safe and are treated equally.

Our County has taken a bold stance in defending and upholding sanctuary policies in the face of attacks by the Trump Administration. We have proudly stood with the County’s efforts to challenge the federal government in court given all that our residents stand to lose by dismantling sanctuary policies. Our County’s policy has made us a pioneer nationally and set the standard for others to follow. Any change in our policy would mean a victory for the Trump Administration and would undermine our County’s leadership in recognizing the due process and civil rights of everyone.

We know that changing the County’s current policy will result in immigrant victims and witness of crimes becoming even more hesitant to come forward and seek justice. There is simply no way to completely alleviate an immigrant community member’s perception that any interaction with local government could result in ICE involvement if any change in policy were to occur. Trust between the immigrant community and the County was already shaken by ICE’s successful efforts to get into our County’s jails last year and we cannot afford to deepen that mistrust by any change in our policy. All victims and witnesses of crimes need to feel safe  coming forward and this is especially true for the most vulnerable within immigrant and refugee communities. When our neighbors feel safe coming forward, that increases safety for all of us.  

The reality is that ICE already has unprecedented resources and tools to conduct its enforcement operations and our organizations witness the real-life impact on community members every day. Families, students, and community members are routinely apprehended by immigration authorities at their homes, on their way to work, and in their neighborhoods. This is a federal agency which has terrorized our local communities and committed untold atrocities against immigrants, including those who have lost their lives in their custody. It does not need any further assistance in detaining and deporting our County’s residents. Doing so would only make our local government complicit in the federal government’s devastation.

Now is the time for the County to be strong in ensuring everyone is safe and secure. We ask our community and those who support immigrants to contact the Board of Supervisors and let them know that our current policy should remain. Let us instead come together as a community and County to heal, unify, and build trust with each other.

FIRE Coalition Members

Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN)

Silicon Valley De-Bug

Asian Law Alliance

Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC)

Pangea Legal Services

People Acting in Community Together (PACT)

Sacred Heart Community Service

Stanford Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic (on behalf of FIRE)

YWCA Silicon Valley

We welcome organizations working within Santa Clara County to join our statement as a supporting organization. If you would like to join this statement, please complete this form.

Floricel Recounts Separation From Her Family and Harrowing ICE Detention

Illustration: Miguel Arzabe

Illustration: Miguel Arzabe

Floricel Liborio Ramos, a single mother of 3 children, was separated from her children and denied freedom for over 11 months. She vividly retells what would have been an ordinary Sunday breakfast at IHOP that turned into a horrible nightmare.

"When you’re in detention, they own you. You’re impotent. They take a hold of you. And that’s where the uncertainty comes in. You don’t know if it will be weeks, months, or years until they make a decision. It becomes difficult to tell reality from fiction. It changes your state of mind. It’s like you are dead, but actually you are alive. It’s like when they put meat in the freezer. You’re stuck in time."

Since Floricel's release in March of this year, she has used her voice to speak out against ICE's vile tactics and the horrendous detention conditions immigrants are subjected to. Read more here:

High School Students to Deliver $25,000 Check to Free Detained 17-year-old Asylum Seeker

 ICE continues to criminalize Afghan boy

San Francisco, CA-  On Friday, June Jordan High School students will be delivering a $25,000 check to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release Hamid, a teenager fleeing Afghanistan because of safety concerns with the Taliban and ISIS. Hamid will finally be free after struggling for 6 months in an adult detention center, where he was placed based on an inaccurate dental exam.  

“This is a bittersweet moment. Yeah, it’s great that the bond money got raised, but that money could’ve been given to him for his college tuition.” said graduated senior Christian Ramirez. “He shouldn’t be paying anything to ICE because he hasn’t done anything at all, except not being from the United States.”  

The students are part of a group called 415 Unidos for Freedom. They have been focused on spreading awareness about immigrant rights, while also being a support system for people being unjustly detained. They have been interacting closely with Hamid’s case, and even skipped their senior trip last Monday to visit Hamid at the detention center in Bakersfield.  

“When I asked him if he’s spoken with his mother, he broke down crying because he hasn’t talked to her in over six months,” Alan Gutierrez said. “Thanks to his release, he will have the opportunity to contact his family.”  

Despite the language barrier and cultural differences, the students were able to make a strong connection with Hamid, which gave them the strength to work harder to fight for immediate action of his release.  

Pangea planned to sue ICE if Hamid was still detained by Friday, expending many resources for a single client who should have been released months ago.  “Although we are infinitely grateful for our community, the students, and the many Mosques who supported Hamid, we are just as frustrated by our system" said Hamid's attorney, Mariel Villarreal at Pangea Legal Services. “ICE is systematically criminalizing children and adult asylum seekers alike, and this needs to end."   

Who: Students from 415 Unidos for Freedom

What: Delivering $25,000 bond check to ICE to secure Hamid’s release  

When: June 8, 2018 at 8:30 am

Where: ICE Building, 630 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94111

Visuals: Check being delivered to ICE, rally by students and community members outside the building


Free 17-Year Old From Adult Detention!

Free 17-Year Old From Adult Detention!

Please join us in signing this petition calling on Senator Harris to help us free Hamid from the Mesa Verde Detention Center. This 17-year old child has been detained with adults since December, despite having a family friend to live with in Austin, Texas.

There is no reason for ICE to continue to deny his multiple requests for release. Please sign this petition calling on Senator Harris to champion Hamid’s case. Please help us get the word out by sharing this petition with a friend or two!!