In October 2023 the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity organized a pilgrimage known as the Pilgrimage to HEAL our communities with the objective of orchestrating an event to shed light on the budget initiative throughout California known as Healthy Economies Adapting to Last (HEAL), and to protest the detention of immigrants held in centers all over California.
The pilgrimage traveled through McFarland, and Bakersfield’s detention centers before making their way to Adelanto, Calexico, and San Diego.
“Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity mobilizes congregations issues like immigration and pretty much become a voice between the two systems. Basically, create a space and allow others to become aware of what is happening between them,” said Felicia Hyde, communications manager for Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. “A big thing to take note of is that these pilgrimages are to heal our community, especially those that are impacted by the incarcerations.”
According to the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity mission statement. HEAL is a new California legislation meant to divest detention centers and invest in high-road jobs and build a sustainable economy.
“The coalition is made up of different organizations, and the coalition has been working for the last ten years and each organization brings their area of information, the issues they work on. We went to McFarland because they house a large number of our young men being held there, so we are here with this pilgrimage because we want to shut down detention centers,” said Lourdes Medina, Advocacy and Communications Associate.
Since the establishment of the Golden State Annex in early 2020, residents have become increasingly vocal about their disdain for the operation of a detention center located in a town that is predominately made up of immigrants, there have been protests from residents and other organizations with the same intent.
“I don’t know if that is legislative, I looked it up and I didn’t see it. It hasn’t been passed, so I don’t think it is a legislative bill but at the same token we don’t own GEO,” said McFarland Mayor Saul Ayon when asked about HEAL. “The thing is that it’s not our detention center, it belongs to GEO, which is federal funding. So, we can’t control where the money goes and how to divest it. We can’t tell them what to do with that money.”
Ayon went on to make statements saying that residents were just misinformed about what GEO’s abilities are when it comes to detaining and arresting people and even said that he knows, for a fact, that the facility has mental health services, medical services, bedding and clothing. Ayon went as far as to say that individuals in the detention center are well taken care of.
Despite Ayon’s claims, the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity’s Instagram page posted a video detailing a former detainee’s experience.
In the video, Guillermo Medina, a former detainee, stood outside Golden State Annex and commented: “I was in this same detention center just about 6 months ago… From experience, I can tell you myself that this is not a good place where anybody would want to be housed at. This is not an institution where they have the right medical. This is not a place where they house you correctly, you go through a lot of negligence, especially medical. People with mental health issues, they suffer a lot because they’re not getting the right treatment, or the right medications, and the food is always spoiled. We just heard from a brother on the phone, that they’re still going through the same issues, today.”