After Hours of Violent Abuse, ICE and Geo Group Abruptly Transfer Four Mesa Verde Hunger Strikers to Texas
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Raya Steier, 530-723-2426, email@example.com
Civil Rights Groups File for Temporary Restraining Order Against ICE, GEO Group
BAKERSFIELD, CALIF. – Shortly after 6 a.m. on March 7, 2023, GEO Group officers, dressed in full protective riot gear with hard plastic face coverings and carrying batons and pepper spray, entered Dorm C of Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility, and attempted to force certain hunger strikers to leave the dorm. Nearly two hours later, officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), accompanied by other officers wearing badges stating “San Francisco Special Response,” entered the dorm and subjected hunger strikers in Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility to brutal retaliation.
According to people detained at the facility, the officers screamed at the hunger strikers, violently removed four strikers from the dorm, and threw at least three of them to the floor as they were handcuffed. The strikers tried calling for help and realized that their phones and most of the tablets in the dorm had been disconnected, preventing them from calling their attorneys or families. After hours of silence, ICE belatedly informed attorneys for the four strikers that they were being transferred to an ICE facility in El Paso, Texas, more than 900 miles from their families and legal teams, supposedly for unsubstantiated “medical” purposes.
In response to ICE and GEO Group’s retaliation against strikers’ peaceful, First Amendment-protected protest, the ACLU of Northern California, ACLU of Southern California, Asian Law Caucus, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Pangea Legal Services, and Jenner & Block LLP filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order in federal district court. The motion calls on the court to block ICE and GEO Group from:
- Transferring or threatening to transfer Mesa Verde and Golden State Annex hunger strikers to different detention facilities;
- Continuing to carry out the unconstitutional transfers of four strikers, Pedro Figueroa–Padilla, Jose Hernandez, Raymundo Noe Dominguez Vidal, and Roberto Carlos Franco Guardado;
- Using violence, excessive physical force, or sexually-abusive pat downs against strikers;
- Denying strikers access to their attorneys; and
- Engaging in any further retaliation against strikers exercising their right to free speech.
The temporary restraining order follows a class action lawsuit filed in Feb. 23, 2023 against ICE and GEO Group for illegal retaliation against strikers, who are demanding immediate release and closure of both Central Valley ICE detention facilities. These filings were preceded by release requests filed by over 30 strikers to ICE, seeking an individualized review of whether their ongoing detention remains justified. ICE has summarily denied the majority of these requests, some within a matter of minutes.
“From the very beginning, we declared a peaceful hunger strike, we were punished and are now being terrorized. If we can’t even do a peaceful protest in here, then what can we do to fight for our rights? We are being punished for fighting for justice,” saidone person detained at Mesa Verde who requested anonymity due to the fears of violent retaliation.
“ICE and GEO’s brutality yesterday is further demonstration that they cannot be trusted with the safety and well-being of immigrant members of our community. There is no form of medical care that involves throwing people on the ground and wrenching their arms behind their back. We are asking the court to call ICE and GEO’s cruelty what it is: unlawful retaliation against peaceful protest,” said the attorneys in a joint statement, many of whom are also members of the MV-GSA Hunger Strike Support Coalition.
‘We are hunger striking because we see the pain that everyone in here is going through.’
The hunger strike, now in its 20th day, follows years of peaceful advocacy by people detained at the two Central Valley detention facilities to demand fair wages, better conditions, and humane treatment. It also follows an ongoing, nearly-year-long refusal by some detained people to participate in the facilities’ supposedly voluntary work program, in which ICE and GEO Group rely on detained people to provide cleaning and sanitation services for only $1 a day. Since the strike began, ICE and GEO have retaliated against strikers by threatening solitary confinement, making the temperatures of the dorms painfully cold, and taunting them with food. ICE and GEO have also denied strikers family visitation, access to worship services, and access to the detention center yard.
In past weeks, people detained in other ICE detention facilities have been calling attention to inhumane conditions and ICE’s abuse. People detained at Northwest ICE Processing Center, in Tacoma, Washington, were sprayed by ICE with chemical agents, as they protested inadequate food and unsanitary conditions. At Otay Mesa Detention Center, detained individuals have filed a complaint alleging retaliation for their protests against medical conditions, and at the Central Louisiana ICE Processing Center last Thursday, an estimated 300 people launched a hunger strike demanding release from the GEO-run detention facility.
Find more information about the Mesa Verde-Golden State Annex hunger strikers at bit.ly/MVGSAHungerStrike.
The MV-GSA Hunger Strike Support Committee consists of the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, Centro Legal de la Raza, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, El Concilio Family Services, Freedom for Immigrants, Free Them All Coalition SD, Kern Welcoming and Extending Solidarity to Immigrants, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement Sacramento Chapter, La Voz de los Trabajadores, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers’ Guild, Pangea Legal Services, Papeles Para Todos, and Rapid Response Network of Kern County.