Last week I spoke with Governor Newsom’s aides about the need to stop transfers from prisons and jails to ICE detention – a matter of life and death in these times of COVID outbreaks. The Alliance of Baptists, with whom Lakeshore has partnered for decades, invited me to represent them in this work; they even created a title for my efforts as their Justice Advocacy Representative – West. The following were my comments. In Friday’s Midweek Message, you will find information on how you can add your voice to this urgent concern. Please join me in continuing to welcome the stranger, protect the vulnerable and release the captive.
Praying for peace, working for justice,
I’m Reverend Dr. Allison Tanner, a pastor in Oakland and the Justice Advocacy Representative – West for the Alliance of Baptists, a national network of 140 congregations and 4,500 individuals. As Baptists, our faith compels us to pursue justice for immigrants and incarcerated individuals, protect those who are vulnerable and provide hope and healing for everyone in our community.
I want to talk to you about the urgent need to suspend transfers from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and local jails to ICE. COVID has already claimed the lives of dozens of incarcerated and detained individuals. The horrors of San Quentin’s outbreak have already begun at Mesa Verde Detention Center, in Bakersfield.
CDCR has transferred over 600 people already this year and lately we’ve heard reports of ICE taking people to detention centers out of state – separating them even further from their families, loved ones and communities. These transfers are unjust, unnecessary and inhumane. They unfairly punish immigrants for our country’s failure to provide a real path to safety for those who come here. The state needs to step in and protect our valuable community members from bad federal policies. As people of faith, we believe in REDEMPTION – not excessive punishment. We believe in RESTORATION – everyone should be able to make amends for their past and be able to contribute positively to their community.
My own congregation in Oakland recently took in a young man whom ICE was forced to release by order of a judge. This young man had been sentenced to 2 months in jail, only to be transferred to ICE where he was held for four years – where he would still be if he were not medically vulnerable. ICE would only release him if he had a place to stay, and, to date, three different congregations have joined together to provide him shelter, food, and resources as he gets back on his feet.
Sanctuary congregations have already been partnering with community-based re-entry programs and providing housing to those who’ve been recently released – and we are eager to partner with the Governor so we can do more.