For Immediate Release: June 19, 2020
First Case of COVID-19 At Mesa Verde Detention Center
Advocates Demand Immediate Action, Saying Any Infection or Death Is on Governor’s Hands
Bakersfield, CA – Today, ICE confirmed that a medical provider at Mesa Verde ICE Detention Center tested positive for COVID-19. As of this morning, ICE had no plan in place to do contact tracing and test people who are detained in the facility.
For months, coalitions across the state have been urging concrete action, highlighting the Governor’s legal authority and the moral imperative to act. Throughout April and May, immigrants at Mesa Verde Detention Center also led hunger strikes calling out the neglect for their safety and urging ICE to release people from detention amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the Governor’s office has refused to take action, providing only empty words.
“It was only a matter of time before COVID-19 arrived at Mesa Verde. People detained inside and our supporters outside have been sounding the alarm since the beginning of this pandemic. ICE and Geo group cannot keep people inside Mesa Verde safe. There’s only one solution: they must be freed,” said Charles Robert Joseph, who was detained at Mesa Verde Detention Center until April 13, 2020.
Community demands of Governor Newsom and Attorney General Becerra include:
- Stop all transfers from California prisons and jails to ICE detention
- Lead an independent investigation and hold detention centers and their for-profit operators accountable for putting lives at risk during the pandemic.
- Stop all expansion of detention in California state.
In ICE detention, like other forms of incarceration, people are kept in closely together by design, making distancing impossible. Detained people have also denounced the lack of masks and soap. Medical neglect makes it easy for COVID-19 to spread, which puts both detained people and the surrounding community at risk. ICE systematically deprives thousands of immigrants of liberty each day, without regard for their health and safety. And prison companies are shamefully turning a profit off of the suffering of community members — at the expense of community well-being and resources.