Centro Legal de la Raza, in partnership with member organizations of the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ), has led efforts to identify how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operated in the Northern California Region since the beginning of March 2020. A dedicated research team coordinated through Centro Legal’s “Research, Resist, Abolish ICE” internship independently collected immigration arrest information to bring to light ICE’s operations. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented public health challenges the state faces, ICE continued to operate in various communities throughout the state. The community members ICE detained were transferred to Yuba County Jail in Marysville and the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield. The initial report and its addendum provide greater insight into ICE’s continued operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and the communities impacted by these enforcement actions. Read the reports here:

Immigration Enforcement During the COVID-19 Pandemic -May 27, 2020
Immigration Enforcement During the COVID-19 Pandemic – July 17, 2020

ICE’s blatant disregard for public health and the lives of immigrants is exemplified by the current situation at Mesa Verde Detention Facility. Despite extensive efforts and ongoing litigation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the facility, over half of the community members that remain detained have contracted COVID-19. Despite knowing about the potential of bringing COVID-19 into the facility by continuing its operations, ICE deliberately chose not to carry out any tests that could have prevented the spread of the disease. But ICE is not solely responsible for creating the conditions that led to this terrible and completely preventable situation. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) operating state prisons, and sheriff’s departments operating county jails have continued to collaborate extensively with ICE. The interactive map below depicts 241 immigration arrests identified from March 1 until August 17 in the Northern California Region. The map clearly shows the detention pipeline that has funneled community members into the negligent detention centers operated by ICE and GEO Group in collaboration with local, state, and federal agencies.

The carceral state and the immigation detention system are both part of the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). The PIC criminalizes and dehumanizes communities of color throughout California to the point of denying them their right to live. As CDCR’s own data shows, COVID-19 has run rampant throughout the prisons it operates and has resulted in a significant number of completely preventable deaths. The situation at Mesa Verde Detention Facility is a reflection of what has been happening at different prisons throughout California and what will continue to happen as ICE expands its capacity. Instead of halting its operations, ICE has repurposed two former state prisons, the Golden State Annex and the Central Valley Annex, to add an additional 1,400 beds to its immigration detention infrastructure. The expansion will raise the maximum total number of available bed space in the Northern California Region from 600 to nearly 2,000 and it completely undermines the progress made in the last years to shut down two ICE facilities operated through contracts with county jails. 

Centro Legal de la Raza recently visualized data released by ICE on September 14 detailing confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths by detention facility throughout the country. Although operations just recently started, there are already 2 confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Golden State Annex. On the map, it is nothing more than a small dot overshadowed by the cases at Mesa Verde, but in the long run, we should expect the number of cases to look no different than similarly-sized detention facilities in southern states. We should also expect to see a significant increase in ICE activity throughout the region and the communities surrounding the annexes will be particularly impacted. Time and time again, ICE has circumvented state laws designed to protect immigrant communities and their ability to more than triple their detention capacity in the region in a time of crisis exemplifies their abhorrent sense of impunity.