In September 2020, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began using a former state prison, the Golden State Annex (GSA), as an immigration detention center in McFarland, California. Despite the enactment of AB 32 into law in California, which prohibits the operation of private detention facilities in the state, the private prison company GEO Group, Inc. and ICE worked against the clock to establish the facility. Touted as an annex for the 400-bed Mesa Verde Processing Facility 26 miles away in Bakersfield, California, the GSA is able to detain up to 700 immigrants. The controversial establishment of this facility exemplifies ICE’s blatant disregard for both immigrant communities and public health as this expansion occurred during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ) collaborates with multiple legal service providers to support the community members held at the GSA. In partnership with Centro Legal de la Raza, information from 120 community members was obtained and analyzed to describe the impact to surrounding communities, key enforcement trends, ICE’s logistical deportation reach, and public health concerns. You can read the report below:

Golden State Annex-Impacted Communities and Enforcement Trends

The information obtained from September 2020 to the end of March 2021 indicates that cities and counties surrounding the facility are disproportionately impacted by the establishment of the Golden State Annex. The GSA’s central location allows ICE to target community members in the Central Valley and Central Coast, as well as reach community members in both Southern and Northern California. Nearly 25% of the community members identified formerly resided in the city and county of Los Angeles. Additionally, the Golden State Annex impacts residents in over 40% of all the counties in California, exemplifying the geographic impact made by this facility, and the potential for it to further expand. Moreover, the impact of this facility was felt in other cities outside of California as shown in the nap below.

The opening of this new facility increases ICE’s logistical ability to operate at greater distances through increased cooperation with California prisons and county jails. Nearly 80% of transfers to the GSA were due to collaboration with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Additionally, over 60% of immigration arrests were transfers from California prisons and 12.5% of arrests were from California county jails. These transfers do not allow individuals who are attempting to complete probation and parole programs to re-enter the community since they are immediately targeted by ICE upon release. The map below demonstrates all the immigration arrests identified.

Moreover, the expansion of ICE’s operational reach during the COVID19 pandemic has resulted in greater spread of the disease. There were 49,239 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in California prisons. Avenal State Prison, which had the highest number of immigration transfers to GSA, was also the same state prison with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. These operations risk not only the lives and health of immigrant members, but those who work at those facilities and their families. The transfers between local and state authorities with ICE are detrimental to multiple communities. The time lapse map below demonstrates the vast distances involved when community members are transferred to the GSA. A concerning and emerging trend is the increase of out-of-state transfers, which will continue to grow and will enable other states to enact anti-immigrant policies in collaboration with ICE while California is left to detain these community members far away from their communities in McFarland. 

The Golden State Annex has increased the logistical enforcement capabilities of ICE at the expense of immigrant communities. Those immigrant communities closest in proximity to the geographical location of the GSA felt the greatest burden. The establishment  of the Golden State Annex displays an overall disregard for immigrant communities and public health. To continue the progress made in recent years to shut down ICE facilities and adhere to AB 32, it is up to the state of California to prevent this privately run detention facility from continuing running.