By The Vanguard Staff
MARYSVILLE, CA – The last person detained by ICE at the Yuba County Jail was released Wednesday – along with news that members of Congress are asking all ICE detention centers in California, including the embattled Yuba County Jail, be shuttered.
After more than three years of incarceration, Ricardo Vasquez Cruz walked out of the jail after a series of actions by immigrant advocates and lawmakers. Cruz is now reunited with his mother, 18-year-old son, sister, extended family and community.
“I’m content to be with my family. I never stopped fighting to stop my deportation, get released, and stay here with my family. I don’t have the words to express how I feel, how it feels to be with my family again. Thank you to everyone who worked to support me and helped fight for my liberty,” said the newly freed Cruz.
A letter led by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Congressman Lou Correa, co-signed by 22 members of Congress, to Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, demands the termination of contracts with Yuba Jail and other state ICE detention facilities.
“Our office and the community kept pushing for Ricardo’s release and together we made it resoundingly clear that there was no justification for his detention. This is what community power looks like,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju.
According to a press statement from Raju’s office, the “Free the Yuba 11 Campaign Coalition” with Ricardo’s family and his attorney, San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Friedman, “spearheaded Ricardo’s release campaign which involved community rallies, vigils, and congressional pressure.”
The Public Defender’s office said “Ricardo also led hunger strikes at the jail to improve the inhumane conditions immigrants were subjected to. The campaign crossed off its penultimate goal with Ricardo’s release. Now the question remains: With zero people detained at Yuba, will ICE shut down this facility?
The grassroots campaign released its own statement, explaining, “We are thrilled to know Ricardo is back in his community and will finally be able to get the urgent medical attention that he was denied for more than three years inside Yuba County Jail! The FreeTheYuba11 campaign is one of many site-fights across the country demanding the shutdown of all immigrant detention centers.
“This campaign has shown the impact the community-legal partnership can have to demonstrate community-based care is the alternate vision to incarceration. The campaign uplifted the humanity of each individual, showed us our need for each other, and a world without cages where we can all heal,” the campaign wrote.
The campaign said a planned vigil for Cruz’ release Oct. 30 at Dolores Park in San Francisco will now become “a community celebration in which formerly detained individuals, their families, advocates, legal service providers and supporters of the FreeTheYuba11 campaign will celebrate Ricardo’s release, remember the lives lost in immigrant detention, and stand in solidarity for those who remain detained.”