McFarland Planning Commission to hold hearing on possible expansion of immigrant detention facilities

January 21, 2020 /

Advocates in McFarland will gather at the City Planning Commission meeting at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall Tuesday at 6 p.m. to demand commissioners not permit The GEO Group, Inc. to use its Golden State Modified Correctional Facility, an old state prison, for immigrant detention. 

The McFarland City Planning Commission will discuss the changes the city could make that allows GEO corporation to expand city permits to its immigrant detention capabilities. In addition to the 400 bed space at Mesa Verde detention facility in Bakersfield, ICE and GEO want to extend their contracts to have the capacity to detain nearly 2,000 people.

“The 14 state prisons within our diocese’s boundaries make it the diocese with the most incarcerated persons in the world,” said Jim Grant, the director of the Social Justice Ministry in the Diocese of Fresno. “We hope that the city of McFarland will join us and its community in seeing schools and not prisons as the way to a healthy and prosperous future for all its citizens, especially the most threatened at this time.”

The Geo Group, Inc. is a private prison company with a three-decade plus history of profiting from the incarceration of Black, Brown, and immigrant communities. The GEO Group has faced serious allegations for providing inadequate care, including leaving children unattended and not informing detainees of their rights. In 2018, inspectors from Immigration and Customs Enforcement recommended docking The GEO Group hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments for violations at its facility in Karnes, Texas. 

Assembly Bill 32, which went into effect this month, effectively bans private for-profit detention facilities  in California; however, GEO says the facilities in McFarland will be used as “annexes” to the existing facility in Bakersfield, LAist reports. 

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno has expressed its support of community members who oppose expanding private detention facilities in McFarland. 

“The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno stands with St. Elizabeth Catholic Church and Faith in the Valley in its opposition to the possible expansion of an ICE detention center in the city of McFarland, a predominantly immigrant community,” said Grant.

Although the City of McFarland is in a dire financial situation and a deal with GEO could be a source of revenue, activists plan to send a message that the city should not do business with a company that will put the local community at risk. 

The hearing begins at 6 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Hall, 103 W. Sherwood Ave. in McFarland. Immigrant rights advocates are holding a rally an hour before the hearing at 5 p.m. at the same location.