Kanter: Santa Ana Cannot Backtrack on ICE Contract

Kaitlin Washburn/Voice of OC

Among the marchers were LGBT advocates protesting the treatment of transgender immigrants.

It has been brought to my attention that some of our city leaders have been exploring the possibility of continuing the contract with ICE in order to detain transgender immigrants in the Santa Ana Jail. I would like to suggest that this would be a disservice to the transgender and immigrant populations and the city and I hope that the Council will allow the contract to expire as anticipated in mid-May.

Many city leaders have voiced sincere concern about the fate of the transgender detainees if they were to be transferred to places like Adelanto or Texas. As we are well aware, there is no such thing as a “good” detention center, especially for at risk populations like transgender women who suffer abuse and neglect in these settings. The attempt by ICE to increase the safety and well-being of these women by creating a trans-specific pod in the Santa Ana jail has not been seen as a successful alternative to incarcerating transgender women with the general population. The binary nature of the prison system, which detention is a part of, is unable to effectively and safely care for transgender women. Multiple alternatives to detention have been proposed but mostly dismissed, since these programs are resource depleting as opposed to incarceration, which provides policing jobs and helps to pay down the jail debt. Given the absence of discussion about resources and support for alternatives, it is difficult to dismiss the possibility that the impetus to sustain this part of the ICE contract stems from fiscal pressure more than than from efforts to ensure the wellbeing of the population.

An effort to sustain the ICE detention center in Santa Ana in order to “protect” transgender women will do nothing of the sort. To begin, the incarceration of any person because of their immigration status is inhumane and should not be supported. Further, if the city were to continue the ICE contract to house transgender women, they would be creating a transgender jail and provide incentives for ICE to search out and imprison transgender women in order to fill the beds. This would only increase the fear and marginalization experienced by not only transgender women, but the entire community.

I too struggle with concerns about people being detained in Adelanto or Texas. As an advocate for the LGBT community in Orange County, and as an immigration rights activist, I have been involved in the intersection of LGBT and immigration rights. In 2014 I participated in a protest at the Santa Ana Jail to highlight the poor conditions of the transgender women in ICE detention and have worked closely with organizers, community leaders and elected officials to find a solution to this human rights problem. We connected city leaders with organizations like CIVIC who brought valid proposals about alternatives to detention. Instead of working on these very humane options, the city engaged in a process to determine how to hire someone who can help determine how to come up with a way to determine how to re-use the city jail.

It has been suggested that our activism is to blame if the transgender women are transferred to unsafe spaces, to which my response is that city leaders should be working with the community to do the right thing and develop alternatives to detention and necessary resources, and not to blame the community for fighting for their own freedom. Conversations with city leaders generally cease when I advocate for resources and legal support for releasing the transgender detainees rather than for extending the contract. This seems to reinforce that the bottom line was being driven by the police association and the budget. Regardless of the impetus, the reality is that to maintain a transgender detention jail in Santa Ana is an inhumane and deleterious proposal.

When the election happened, Santa Ana city leaders stepped up to declare Santa Ana a sanctuary city. This was the right thing for this city to do. The end of ICE contract in mid-May is an appropriate and necessary step to ensure that this sanctuary city lives up to its promise. To have continued collaboration with ICE in any way defeats the meaning of this resolution and does not serve to increase the safety and well-being of transgender women, who will be rounded up to fill ICE beds.

I am convinced that the Santa Ana City Council genuinely cares about LGBT people and will stand up to protect our community. In this case, I am also convinced that the right thing to do is to end the ICE contract in full. At this time, local advocates who have spent many years fighting to get ICE of their city, are working diligently with lawyers and resource providers to hasten the release of those currently detained. If city leaders really want to share this genuine concern they should advocate for the release of the people in the jail as ICE reviews their cases. To maintain a contract with ICE and in particular to maintain that collaboration to solely hold transgender immigrants would be to create a jail for transgender women in this city. This would not be in the best interest of this vulnerable population or this city. I implore the members of the city council to end the contract with ICE in full as planned.

Laura Kanter is Director of Policy, Advocacy and Youth Programs at the LGBT Center OC.

For a different view on this issue, consider: 

Serrano: Don’t Foreclose Santa Ana City Jail

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org

  • OCResident

    I think the better idea would have been to embrace the presence of detained people in SA where there is an obvious network of people who will work tirelessly on their behalf. SA is also looking into helping undocumented with legal resources, some of that aid could be used here. This would be the best outcome. Santa Ana, sanctuary city, takes money from ICE to house detainees, then provides aid to groups that want to help them get out. Everyone benefits and ICE would actually be underwriting some of the effort to free their own detainees.

    By pushing the detained out of SA they are going to be dispersed and possibly (probably?) out of the reach of these people that want to badly to help them.

    • LFOldTimer

      I wish the bleeding hearts would show as much compassion for working citizens who are unable to afford the premiums and deductibles under Obama Care, and thus deter or delay routine medical care that puts them (and their families) at much higher risk for serious medical complications down the road as you show for criminal illegal aliens with deportation orders as a result of committing serious state crimes against persons and property.

      Check your priority levels. You’re about 3 quarts low.

  • verifiedsane

    This is so typical of the extreme left political operatives; attempting to combine a fringe social agenda with a criminal legal one. Illegal immigration enforcement is not a sexual orientation issue! It’s a federal law and national sovereignty issue. These poor attempts from far left organizers like Laura Kanter’s LGBT center are completely disingenuous, propagate a false narrative, and amount to little more than laughable folly.

    • Soy Yo

      I would totally agree with you verifiedsane, if the city council in Santa Ana didn’t allow these twenty or so voices to dictate the city’s direction when dealing with this issue.

      Much like any other person incarcerated at any level, these transgender women have identified themselves for detention and incarceration by breaking the law. What law, specifically, depends on what individual you are discussing. Many of these LGBTQ organizations downplay the criminality and illegality of the actions of these detained persons and blame societal pressures for their actions. Most, if not all, of these transgender women in ICE custody are arrested based on charges related to prostitution. The city of Santa Ana has a major prostitution issue. Not only on Harbor or on east 1st but also with the transgender women in the area of 15th and Main. Drive down Main at any hour of the day or night and you will see them sitting on benches or speaking to customers through the windows of their cars. The LGBTQ community dismisses the actions and explains that these trans women can’t work in normal societal jobs because they are not accepted. Never mind the fact that most major police agencies around the country, schools, the US military all employ transgender people.

      The immediate release of any inmate simply on the basis or their sexual identity is irresponsible and wreckless. And the city council allowing this small group of voices to dictate city policy is ridiculous to say the least.

      David Cavazos compiled a few million dollars by leaving more than 100 positions vacant. The vast majority of those were at the police department. And when the ICE contract goes away and $8 million dollars annually is lost as a result, where will the money he made up? Oh…wait…we’ve gotten along so far without those positions being filled and now we really can’t afford them so…8-10 cops on the street will have to be enough for the 350-400k citizens. Rise in murders? Rise in robberies? No problem, as long as we remain steadfast in telling Trump and the federal government to F@&k off…and to keep their federal funds.

      Hey Laura Kanter, maybe your organization can help cover the millions the city is losing based on the policies you are pushing the city council to adhere to…

  • LFOldTimer

    “To begin, the incarceration of any person because of their immigration status is inhumane and should not be supported.”

    Statements like the foregoing are so silly, naive and childlike. My recommendation would be to travel to a few foreign countries and observe how their immigration systems work. But whatever you do don’t overstay your visa or try to hold a job without the government’s permission. You’d likely end up in the klink for an extended visit. All nations have borders and enforce their immigration laws for perfectly logical and rational reasons. It’s just the way advanced civilizations operate on Planet Earth.

    It’s a blessing for the citizens of SA that some unnamed city council members may have come to their senses and harbor second thoughts about dumping the ICE jail ‘Beds for Feds’ program. Losing $325,000 a month in guaranteed revenue when you’ve got a $24M jail debt (plus interest) hanging over your heads is just begging for a fiscal crisis. Reason should always prevail over emotion. Good luck to all.

    • Ed Garza

      We are not another country, we are the USA and our history is based on immigrants and human rights for all. If you like what other countries do, move.

      • LFOldTimer

        Thanks for your opinion, Ed.

        But apparently you aren’t familiar with the history of immigration in the United States. If you ever visit NYC I highly recommend that you take a tour of Ellis Island and educate yourself. Like any other civilized nation, America has a history of screening those who desire to immigrate for the privilege to live in our country contingent upon the jobs and resources available to accommodate new arrivals and the value they would bring to our country, just like all civilized nations do. Many people who wanted to immigrate have been turned away because they didn’t meet the grade. That’s how orderly immigration systems work, Ed. We can’t accept all the illiterate and indigent and sick people of the world because it would destroy our own country. That’s the reason we can’t allow people to break our laws by sneaking across the border and invading our country. Civilized nations don’t work that way, Ed. You wouldn’t allow some unidentified person to enter your home and live there without your permission, would you, Ed?

        So you have a misinformed opinion of what America is all about. I suggest you go to the local library and learn about the history of immigration in America. Good luck with your educational endeavors.

        • Ed Garza

          I submit you don’ know what you are talking about. Immigration is what has made our country what it is. Your opinions are biased and you hide behind a fake name. I would guess you are referring to immigrants that come from Mexico. You might want to check the Pew Hispanic Center to check out some statistics.

          • LFOldTimer

            LEGAL immigration helped build the nation, Ed. Not ILLEGAL immigration. Get your facts straight.

            I wasn’t referring to ILLEGAL immigrants from any particular nation. I was referring to ALL ILLEGAL immigrants from nations throughout the entire world.

            Americans applaud LEGAL immigrants. Thumbs down to ILLEGAL immigrants.

            Go educate yourself. Ed.

      • verifiedsane

        Our history is not based on the propagation of illegal immigration and law breaking…stop attempting to rewrite history with fake news liberal propaganda…maybe you should look into moving back to what ever country you believe should offer/afford illegal immigrants and law breakers the same rights as citizens and legal immigrants…and here’s a hint: it’s not Mexico…their immigration laws are much tougher and more unforgiving than ours…

        • Ed Garza

          Actually my heritage is from this continent. You?

          • verifiedsane

            My heritage is from the northern hemisphere…of course that doesn’t matter, or is the issue of discussion! You are attempting to muddle the vast difference between legal immigration and illegal immigration…it’s pretty much like comparing apples to oranges…you simply have no argument….so go ahead & bloviate nonsense until the cows come home..

    • David Resendez

      Here we go again folks. The “smartest” guy in the room whose “get off my lawn” mentality informs his silly rants. You’d do well to ignore this angry man.

      • LFOldTimer

        Is that all you got, hombre? lol

        Why not argue the issue for once instead of attacking the messenger?