A 22-Year-Old Is Second Person Detained At Mesa Verde To Contract COVID-19

Jul 30, 2020

A second person detained at the ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield tested positive for COVID-19. This comes as other detainees at Mesa Verde are participating in a labor strike. 


Christian Orellana, 22, suffers from a liver disease. His attorney Ambar Tovar with the Removal Defense Project in Bakersfield said Orellana had a fever of 101 degrees on Wednesday and tested positive for COVID the same day.


“He mentions that he has trouble breathing, that his back hurts every time he breathes,” Tovar said. “He’s even afraid to lie down and sleep because he’s afraid he won't be able to breathe.”


Now everyone in his dorm is in quarantine, Tovar said. And some people had been transferred to that dorm as recently as this week, according to Susan Beaty from Centro Legal in Oakland. She’s working closely with detainees who are labor striking for their release from Mesa Verde. 


“They know that as long as they are in a cage, their lives are in danger during this pandemic so the number one demand is for ICE to use its authority to release them immediately,” Beaty said. 


In the meantime, they are demanding clean dorms, nutritious food, and equitable wages for the cooking and cleaning that they provide in the facility, Beaty said. In a statement, ICE said it is following CDC guidelines and is taking proactive measures to mitigate COVID-19 risks.  


“ICE conducts regular inspections completed by external groups to ensure ICE maintains a safe and secure environment for the residents at the facility,” the statement said.

But Beaty disagreed. “In lieu of forcing incarcerated people to clean for five dollars a week or voluntarily, they’ve just not cleaned,” Beaty said. The people detained described the restrooms as unsanitary with still water in the showers and sinks, Beaty said. 

Advocates as well as people detained at the Mesa Verde facility will participate in a Facebook Live event on July 31 at 5 p.m. to further discuss the conditions within the detention center.