In San Francisco and Fresno, protests were held by the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, survivors of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention, and other organizations at the ICE offices. They gathered to demand that The GEO Group and ICE take accountability for wrongdoings such as abuse and labor exploitation. Protesters asked for the end of governmental contracts with GEO Group and ICE.
The GEO Group operates the two ICE detention centers known as Mesa Verde Detention Facility (“Mesa Verde”) and Golden State Annex (“Golden State”), and yesterday Californians came together to protest the contracts that allow them to stay open.
This week’s protests are a culmination of advocacy efforts since November 2022, when detainees from both Mesa Verde and Golden State began a labor strike in response to $1-a-day wages for essential services like cleaning and cutting hair, according to reports from KQED.
Spring and Summer months brought more legal action and hunger strikes to bring awareness to the abuse, retaliation, and individual stories of the horrors inside the privately owned and for-profit ICE processing centers. Kern Sol News reported the hunger strikes in Bakersfield and McFarlands ICE processing centers in March. Unfortunately, the detainees faced retaliation for speaking out.
With enough news coverage detailing these unlawful actions, six congress members from across California signed a letter on May 24th, 2023 urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Director of ICE to end contracts with GEO Group, to release non-violent detainees to their support systems in the local area, and for California to utilize nonprofit or DHS managed facilities for future detainees. For more information, visit California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice website.
Gustavo is a detainee at Golden State in McFarland, and he spoke over the phone to protesters who attended yesterday’s demonstration. An organizer with the protest efforts sent Kern Sol News Gustavo’s statement:
“For the past 17 months, I have been in ICE custody. That’s 17 months that I’ve been away from my family, that I’ve been away from my loved ones, that I’ve been away from being an asset to my community. I’ve experienced medical negligence, nutritional malnourishment, retaliation, discrimination, and horrible living conditions. It’s unsettling to know that we are here because some people are benefiting off us being in these beds. Sometimes I wake up, and I feel like I’m in a nightmare… For those reasons, we have no other choice than to try to change our conditions by going on our labor strike. Conditions weren’t getting better, so then we had to take more extreme measures and put our bodies and our health on the line by going on a hunger strike. It is our responsibility right now to pave a better way for future generations.”