Over one hundred people detained at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield are on an indefinite hunger strike, according to Susan Beaty, a fellow with Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland. Those detained are demanding access to masks, soap and other protective items.
The strike started at a women’s dorm on Thursday night, Beaty said. The next day, a men’s dorm and the other women’s dorm, joined the strike.
“They put forward a list of demands and also a request to have a meeting with the warden, the facility admin, as well as the regional director of ICE,” Beaty said.
The list of demands includes hygiene supplies, the screening and testing of all individuals in custody, suspension of all in-person check-ins and the suspension of all enforcement operations and removals across Northern California and the Central Valley.
“The hunger strike was begun by and led by folks on the inside of the Mesa Verde Detention Center and us advocates are following their lead and doing everything we can to support them,” Beaty said.
But in a statement on Friday, ICE said that the claims made about a hunger strike are false and a tactic by advocates to exploit immigrant detainees. But Beaty said the detainees are striking and that they lack basic rights.
“Starting a few weeks ago we were getting reports that people detained by ICE did not have access to basic hygiene, “ Beaty said, “Even to this day people don’t have access to soap unless they buy it.”
So far, Beaty says, none of the demands have been met.