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Latinx Files: This California agency is reporting U.S. citizens to ICE

US citizen inmates have been deported.
(Photo Illustration by Diana Ramirez / De Los; Getty Images)
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The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the agency that oversees the operation of the state’s prison and parole systems, routinely reports U.S citizens or green card holders in their custody to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California via a public records request.

The civil rights organization shared some of these communications between CDCR and ICE with my colleague Andrea Castillo, who broke the story.

The ACLU NorCal analyzed more than 2,500 emails, attachments and policy records from August and September 2022 in conjunction with four other advocacy groups, and published a report based on their findings on Tuesday.

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They found that in that two-month period, CDCR handed over more than 200 people to ICE custody.

Sana Singh, an Immigrants’ Rights Fellow at the ACLU NorCal and author of the report, told Castillo that this batch of documents is only a fraction of what they expect to receive.

“What’s reflected in these records is CDCR engaging in formalized discrimination,” Singh said. “We felt it was worth sharing now even before we get the full universe of records.”

Per the report, individuals in CDCR custody who are suspected of being foreign-born can be given a “potential hold” designation, a “label invented entirely by CDCR with no direction from ICE” that carries serious consequences, including being “barred from lower security custody placements, certain jobs, reentry programming, and more.”

The report paints a CDCR that’s overly deferential to ICE, when it doesn’t have to be.

In one email shared in the report, an unidentified CDCR official asks an ICE agent if it’s OK to remove a “potential hold” designation from an inmate despite its own records indicating they are a U.S. citizen.

“Can you confirm that the [individual] is a citizen please so I can clear this up,” the agent asks. “There were some identifiers that showed MX Citizenship, but I am thinking this is a mistake.”

“We’ve heard over and over through years from incarcerated people that this collusion was happening.” Singh told the Times.

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“It’s particularly heinous in California, which is home to the largest immigration population,” she said. “So many families are implicated by these practices.”

Indeed, the findings of the ACLU NorCal challenge the long-perceived idea that California is a haven for immigrants. It’s an image that Gov. Gavin Newsom himself has repeatedly promoted.

When reached for comment, Newsom’s office referred Castillo to the CDCR. A spokesperson for the agency told Castillo that CDCR was working on making information available to ICE only when an individual goes into prison and when their release date is approaching, and that CDCR reaches out to ICE whenever the agency can’t verify where an inmate was born.

You can read Andrea Castillo’s story here, and the ACLU NorCal report can be found here.

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Things we read this week that we think you should read

—As editorial director, one of my goals for De Los is to make it a place that publishes the work of some of the best Latinx journalists and writers in the game. In my mind, Tina Vazquez, an editor-at-large at independent news organization Prism, absolutely fits that description. In her first contribution to De Los, Vazquez wrote a well-reported commentary piece on how Latinas who seek mental health care and establish boundaries with their families are often portrayed as “malcriadas.”

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— Earlier this summer, De Los tapped poet Yesika Salgado to guest edit a series of original poems by Latinx writers on the theme of belonging. These were then illustrated and animated by Los Angeles-based artist Pepe Te Adoro, and posted on our Instagram account every week in August. On Tuesday, we published the final poem in the series. You can find the whole series here, and stay tuned for more!

—DannyLux has had a pretty good run lately. The 19-year-old went from playing songs on TikTok in his Coachella Valley bedroom to performing at the world-famous musical festival that takes over his hometown every year. In that time, DannyLux has also achieved teen idol status in a genre often dominated by songs about living the fast narco life. To learn more about el romántico for the TikTok generation, read this wonderful profile by columnist Suzy Exposito.

— One of my favorite shows in recent years is “Reservation Dogs,” the FX coming-of-age comedy that follows a group of Native teen friends in Oklahoma. The show is a standout for a variety of reasons — the writing is phenomenal, it doesn’t bother to explain its culture to anyone and most importantly, it has a lot of heart. Entertainment staff writer Tracy Brown recently spoke to directors Danis Goulet and Blackhorse Lowe, who have collectively directed four episodes this season, the show’s last. A heads-up, this story contains some spoilers.

— I’m going to keep repeating this until y’all block me, but, if you haven’t seen “Blue Beetle” yet, what are you even doing with your life? In case you need another reason for why you should support this Latinx-led comic book superhero movie, here’s an essay by De Los contributor Alex Zaragoza on how the family is Jaime Reyes’ true superpower.

—Last week, Futuro Media, the beloved independent news outlet dedicated to telling Latinx stories, announced that it was laying off a portion of its staff. De Los reporter Andrea Flores has more on this story.

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