Last week, over 200 people inside a Bakersfield Detention Center participated in a hunger strike, according to advocates. Now ICE is threatening to suspend detainee privileges and it’s had a chilling effect on some of the strikers.
Pablo Ramirez has been detained in Mesa Verde for six months. He joined the strike last week to help show a united front against the conditions inside the detention center.
“They don't test us for anything. They say they screen, they don't even take our temperature,” Ramirez said in a phone call to advocates working closely with the strikers. “And for the new people coming, all they do is just that.” ICE officers only take the new detainees' temperatures and ask them to fill out a questionnaire, according to Ramirez.
But this week, ICE threatened to suspend commissary accounts and yard time according to Susan Beaty from Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland. As a result, both men’s dorms suspended their hunger strike.
“A couple of the dorms decided to temporarily suspend their hunger strike so they could talk about next steps but there is at least one dorm that is still striking and they have been striking for ten days,” said Beaty.
She’s referring to the women’s dorm which began the hunger strike April 9th. Mesa Verde is now providing paper masks to the detainees and soap dispensaries in the bathrooms, two items strikers had originally requested.
ICE official Jonathan Moore said ICE began providing surgical masks to staff and people detained at Mesa Verde on April 17 and will continue to do so until the pandemic is over. In regards to the hunger strike, Moore said ” the detainees at the Mesa Verde ICE processing center were determined not to be on a hunger strike.”
Moore cited staff at Mesa Verde who said they had observed detainees eating their meals.
“According to detention standards, officers at the ICE facilities have the discretion to determine whether a hunger strike is occurring," said Moore. "Officers found none of the detainees met the 72 hours threshold for skipping meals.”