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Detainees at Kern County ICE facilities organize hunger strike

Joshua Yeager
A detainee inside the Golden State Annex detention center in McFarland holds a sign that reads “Hunger Strikers United.”

Read the transcript for this report below.

ALEX BURKE, HOST: Dozens of detainees at nearby immigration detention centers are in the midst of a hunger strike. They’re protesting alleged unpaid labor and inhumane conditions at two Kern County facilities. KVPR’s Joshua Yeager reports from outside one of those facilities in McFarland.

[Sound of detainee singing original protest song in Spanish]

JOSHUA YEAGER: You’re hearing Reymundo, a detainee at the Golden State Annex outside Bakersfield. The facility is an ICE detention center run by private prison contractor GEO Group.

Reymundo is one of 84 detainees on a hunger strike. The detainees are protesting a $1 daily wage for working eight-hour janitorial shifts, a situation they say amounts to slave labor.

GEO has denied the existence of a hunger strike and maintains it is meeting all federal contracting standards.

In most cases, detainees here have already completed court-ordered sentences.

ROSA LOPEZ: Any normal person would get a chance to go home.

YEAGER: Rosa Lopez is a policy advocate with the ACLU.

LOPEZ: But because they’re caught in the immigration situation, they’re detained for months or for years while they fight their civil immigration case.

YEAGER: The hunger strike began on February 17.

For KVPR News, I'm Joshua Yeager.

Joshua Yeager is a Report For America corps reporter covering Kern County for KVPR.