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Detained Migrants Condemn ICE and GEO Group Negligence, Mismanagement of Ongoing Covid-19 Outbreak

30 individuals detained at Golden State Annex signed a letter detailing dangerous conditions

McFarland, Calif. – Thirty people detained at the Golden State Annex immigrant detention center in California’s Central Valley have signed a letter condemning Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private prison company GEO Group for exposing individuals in the facility to Covid-19. Rather than protecting people in their custody from Covid-19, ICE and GEO Group have put lives at risk by allowing the infection to spread. They have taken action only to deny detained immigrants’ access to community and legal support by suspending in-person family and friend visitation, canceling a critical in-person legal clinic, cutting off access to legal consultations via video conference, delaying court hearings and denying antiviral medication such as Paxlovid.

“GOLDEN STATE ANNEX is not equipped to handle a Covid-19 outbreak,” wrote the group of detained migrants in their letter. “Furthermore, ICE/DHS could care less what happens to us, demonstrating no concern for our safety, or our lives. [...] Seeing how quickly it spread, the most humane and reasonable conclusion would be to realize that detention centers like GSA are not in the public interest or the detainees’ interest, and therefore it is best to release us upon consideration of inhumane detention or compassion[ate] release to further prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

ICE and GEO Group have consistently failed to protect individuals in their custody from the spread of Covid-19, which is especially dangerous due to the forced congregate setting as well as the widespread medical negligence in immigration detention facilities. The first death from Covid-19 of someone in ICE custody happened in a privately run California detention center.

“Detention is arbitrary and now it’s become a health risk,” said Guillermo Silva Hernandez, who is currently detained at Golden State Annex. “We have no security of person anymore in here, all to maintain an economy that detains people who should be free. We are human beings.”

“Kern County and the California Department of Public Health both have the authority, as clarified by AB 263, to enforce health orders in private detention centers that contract with the federal government, such as Golden State Annex,” said April Newman of the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice. “We call on them to ensure that the people detained there are provided all available care, which we believe is only possible outside the walls of GSA.”

GEO Group was fined less than a year ago by CalOSHA for not having a plan to control aerosol transmissible diseases like Covid-19 at Golden State Annex, where there is now an outbreak. Covid-19 cases had been on the rise in Kern County for at least a month, yet ICE and GEO Group did not take adequate steps, if any, to protect people from this illness, further endangering both those in their custody and surrounding community members. People detained there who were infected by Covid-19 report having been denied access to antiviral medication and given only cough drops or electrolytes.


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