ICE continues to transfer inmates despite COVID-19 surge in Kern County

September 14, 2021 /

As Kern County faces a rise in COVID cases and reaches ICU bed capacity, ICE is putting the lives of detained immigrants and residents in danger because of their decision to transfer inmates during the pandemic.

ICE has started a mass-transfer campaign for those who are detained at Golden State Annex to Mesa Verde Detention Facility. Those detained are being transferred at midnight and at least 15 people have been moved so far, but there are more waiting to be transferred.

“These transfers come at the heels of a complaint filed with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on behalf of eight plaintiffs, some of which have been targets of the mass-transfer campaign,” the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ) stated in a press release this past Thursday.

The CDC guidelines state that people need to be tested and receive negative results before they can be transferred. And, in addition to a negative result, a 14-day quarantine is recommended before and after the transfer. ICE is violating these guidelines as they continue to transfer inmates.

With the GEO Group not requiring the staff in their facilities to be fully vaccinated the risk of contracting COVID-19 is higher, especially for those who have medical conditions.

Laura Duarte, Communications Manager for the CCIJ, said it was only through the collective work of community organizers and legal service providers that they were able to learn of the mass transfer campaign and responded promptly to the situation.

“It should be highly concerning to congressional representatives and public health departments that ICE and GEO are conducting a mass transfer campaign during a COVID-19 surge in Kern County,” said Duarte. “ICE and GEO conducted this operation in the middle of the night, when people detained are less likely to be able to speak with their attorneys and advocates that support them, and without telling those transferred why they were being transferred or to where.”

Duarte also said ICE and GEO have already been taken to court for failing to follow COVID-19 guidance. Because they cannot protect the health and safety of those in detention, they will continue to demand that ICE release individuals to the care of their communities.