A protester in front of a detention center holds a pink sign that reads, "Retaliation from ICE for hunger strike."

Hunger Strike Continues at ICE Detention Centers

Detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in California are on a hunger strike against conditions described by the American Civil Liberties Union as “soul-crushing” and “abhorrent,” including rotten food and black mold (KVPR). For 10 months, incarcerated detainees organized a labor strike against the $1 per day wages they receive for working 8-hour shifts while detained. Strike participants were subjected to retaliation, including solitary confinement, sexual abuse, and transfer out of state. In response, on February 17th, 2023, dozens of people held in Bakersfield’s Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center and McFarland’s Golden State Annex began refusing food. As of publication, the hunger strike has lasted two weeks (MSN). 

Since Mesa Verde and the Golden State Annex do not detain individuals convicted or suspected of a crime, detainees include refugees seeking asylum and those being considered for or awaiting deportation (The Intercept). Both sites are run by GEO Group, a multinational private prison corporation that generated $2.36 billion in revenue last year, mostly from contracts with the U.S. government (Nasdaq). The company is so profitable that in 2021, Michael Burry, the investor whose prediction of the Great Recession is depicted in The Big Short, sold all his other stocks to invest exclusively in GEO Group (Seeking Alpha). Almost 80,000 people are detained or imprisoned by GEO Group in the United States, spread across dozens of taxpayer-funded facilities (GEO Group). 


• Join the campaign in solidarity with the Hunger Strike for Collective Liberation.

• Contact the ICE field office at (415) 844 5512 to demand that Mesa Verde and the Golden State Annex are closed today.

• Follow @sv_debug for more information on the hunger strike.

Join protests at Mesa Verde facility on March 5.

This isn’t the first time the private prison corporation has been credibly accused of human rights violations. Cameroonian asylum-seekers at GEO’s Pine Prairie ICE Processing Center in Louisiana were threatened with exposure to COVID-19 and attacked by a SWAT team for failing to agree to their deportation (The Intercept). The U.S. Department of Justice sued GEO Group for “excessive abuse and neglect” at a juvenile justice center. Immigrants at GEO’s Northwest Detention Center are denied medical care and allege sexual harassment and verbal abuse (ABC News). In 2021, a federal judge ruled that the Mesa Verde ICE facility, where detainees are now on hunger strike, had “abominable performance” protecting those incarcerated from COVID-19 (Prison Legal News). A Brazilian asylum-seeker at another GEO facility was denied medical care for months as she lost 30 pounds and coughed up blood. She had tuberculosis, a highly-contagious and life-threatening disease (The Intercept).

Conditions are so poor at immigration detention centers in the United States that an estimated 1,600 people detained in inhumane conditions were forced to go on hunger strikes between May 2015 and early 2020 (KQED). 

“Our basic needs are not being met. We’re requesting ICE to release us,” said Oscar Rodriguez Picazo, a hunger striker. Dozens of individuals have gone two weeks without eating, with one taken to the hospital after experiencing dizziness, numbness, and pain. GEO Group is retaliating against hunger strikers by depriving them of hygienic necessities, time outdoors, visits from family, and access to legal information (KCRW). Regardless, said Rodriguez Picazo, the hunger strike will continue “until we drop” (KQED). 

Per U.S. federal policy, Immigration and Customs Enforcement may free any immigration detainee who has not committed an aggravated felony. The decision to keep immigrants and asylum-seekers in conditions so deplorable that dozens have starved themselves for half a month cannot be blamed on Congressional obstruction or the composition of the Supreme Court (KQED). Almost all individuals detained at Mesa Valley and the Golden State Annex could be freed at any moment at the orders of ICE, a department reporting to a President who promised on the campaign trail to “restore our moral standing in the world and our historic role as a safe haven for refugees and asylum seekers” (PBS). Biden’s promise has proven to be a lie, though the profits for private prison profiteers like GEO Group and their investors have grown unabated. Contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement and demand that Mesa Verde and the Golden State Annex be shuttered today and that those held there are returned to their families and communities. 


• Immigrant detainees are on day 14 of a hunger strike against deplorable conditions at two ICE detention facilities in California. 

• Both facilities are run by GEO Group, a multi-billion dollar publicly-traded private prison corporation. 

• The individuals on hunger strike are demanding that both inhumane facilities are closed, and they are released to be with their families and communities.

1500 1294 Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee

Andrew Lee is a writer and organizer plotting a better world in Philadelphia. His work has previously appeared in Notes From Below, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, Plan A Magazine, ROAR Magazine, and Teen Vogue.

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