Mendez v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Status: CLOSED


On February 23, 2023, five people detained at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield, CA, and the Golden State Annex in McFarland, CA, filed a class action lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and GEO Group, the private, for-profit prison company that owns and operates the detention centers. The plaintiffs—Milton Mendez, Guillermo Medina Reyes, Cruz Leandro Martinez Leiva, and two individuals referred to as “R.H.M.” and “E.O.A.R.” in court documents to protect their privacy—are among the approximately 82 detained people who declared a hunger strike on February 17, 2023, to protest unpaid labor and inhumane living conditions. Since the hunger strike began, ICE and GEO Group have harassed strikers by threatening to place them in solitary confinement, making the temperature of the dorms painfully cold, and taunting them with food. Officials have also denied them family visitation, access to worship services, and access to the detention center yard. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit seek injunctive relief against ICE and GEO Group for retaliating against them for engaging in a collective hunger strike to demand immediate release and closure of both Central Valley ICE detention facilities.

Early morning on March 7, 2023, GEO Group officers appeared in full riot riot gear, carrying batons and pepper spray, and attempted to force certain hunger strikers to leave Dorm C at Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center. Subsequently, ICE officers and other officers wearing badges that said “San Francisco Special Response” entered Dorm C, screamed at strikers, forcefully removed four strikers from the dorm, and threw at least three of them to the floor as they were handcuffed. Their phones and tablets were disconnected, preventing them from calling their attorneys and families. After many hours of silence, ICE belatedly informed their attorneys that the four strikers were transferred to a detention facility in El Paso, Texas for unsubstantiated “medical purposes”. In response, plaintiffs filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order against ICE and GEO Group to block them from transferring hunger strikers to other detention facilities in an unlawful attempt to break the strike, and to end the unconstitutional transfer of the four strikers sent to El Paso.

The strikers asserted their rights for a total of 35 days, persisting even as detention center officials engaged in violent tactics to break the strike. On March 29, the strikers announced their decision to suspend the protest, as a result of being subjected to weeks of retaliation, while vowing to continue their fight towards collective liberation and the shutdown of both Mesa Verde and the Golden State Annex. Families, advocates, and members of the community continue to call on their representatives to hold ICE and GEO Group accountable for their medical negligence, contract violations, and inhumane treatment.

On April 28, the plaintiffs’ counsel filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of this case.

In The News

Important Documents