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Immigrant Rights Groups Call on ICE to Stop Sending People to Golden State Annex, Meet with Detained Individuals

Media Contacts: 

Alex Mensing, CCIJ, alex[@], (415) 684-5463

Esperanza Cuautle, Pangea Legal Services, esperanza[@], (415) 271-5644

March 12, 2024

For Immediate Release

As ICE rapidly increases the number of people it sends to the detention center, immigrants held there report serious violations, including lack of water, medical care, hygiene items, and clean clothing

MCFARLAND, California – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has suddenly and drastically increased the number of people it chooses to hold in its custody at Golden State Annex (GSA), an immigrant detention center in McFarland, California, owned and operated by the private prison company GEO Group. Since January 2023, the facility population has increased from 130 to around 400 individuals, a 200% increase that occurred mostly in a matter of weeks and that has resulted in the exacerbation of longstanding conditions violations. Yesterday, immigrant rights groups sent a letter to the region’s ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations leadership detailing serious concerns raised by legal service providers, advocacy groups and detained individuals.

“The facility is not providing the basic toiletries like toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, etcetera. [...] GSA is also currently experiencing a staff shortage due to countless officers that are on medical leave and a string of recent firings, staff now appear exhausted from working sixteen hour shifts,” stated Ever Paz, currently detained at GSA in a letter sent to a lawyer and dated February 20th. “The situation is dire and might only worsen by the hour because ICE is detaining more people here than ever before and obviously housing them in these aforementioned inhumane conditions.”

Screenshot of a letter addressed to an attorney, dated February 29, 2024, and describing unjust conditions inside a detention center
Excerpt of letter from B.H.

B.H., who is also currently detained at GSA and who asked to be identified only by his initials, wrote in a February 29 letter that ICE’s decision is “creating unhealthy, unsafe, and a hostile environment.” The letter describes how “new detainees at their arrival in this facility face different difficulties from medical staff/treatment, officers not able to provide the required clothing issues that a detainee should received [sic] at their arrival and the required quality/quantity of food.”

The dangerous conditions at GSA highlighted in the groups’ letter – which include the unavailability of water for up to 12 hours, inadequate medical care, the failure to provide required hygiene items and seriously reduced access to legal representation and information – have been worsened by ICE’s rapid increase of the population. However, these problems are not new, and nor are detained immigrants’ efforts to raise the alarm about the horrors they face at GSA and the nearby Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center. 

“We have been putting our bodies on the line here at Golden State Annex and Mesa Verde for years to protest what’s going on in here,” said Gustavo Flores, who has been detained at GSA since March of 2022, and who also spent several months at Mesa Verde where he was temporarily transferred. “Not long after being sent to ICE detention, I joined a labor strike along with dozens of other people detained here. We were fighting against many of the same injustices that we continue to see today - medical neglect, undercooked and unhealthy food, filthy bathrooms, as well as being coerced to work for a dollar a day. We even had support from some labor unions, and we spoke with congressional offices, but things haven’t been fixed. Just yesterday, we weren’t given any dinner until 9pm, and the meat we got was raw. It’s time for this to stop, and I don’t think there’s any solution other than closing these detention centers.”

Picture of a sign reading GOLDEN STATE with the GEO Group logo and a detention center with barbed wire in the background
Golden State Annex

“Something that is important for people to consider is that immigration detention is not only cruel and costly, but it is entirely unnecessary,” said Priya Patel, Supervising Attorney with the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice. “ICE has chosen that instead of allowing people to pursue their legal proceedings in freedom–which overwhelming evidence shows immigrants do consistently–they will suddenly jam them by the hundreds into a cage where they are subjected to torturous conditions.”

“People locked up inside GSA have consistently denounced systemic harm, retaliation and negligence at the facility,” said Eunice Hernandez Chenier with Pangea Legal Services. “Members of Congress, ICE leadership and the Biden administration are all well aware of these issues, yet there is little to no accountability for private prison companies like GEO or, more importantly, the San Francisco ICE Field Office which oversees GSA and Mesa Verde. The Biden administration, like every other administration during an election year, is playing politics with people’s lives while GEO reaps the benefits by the millions of dollars.”

In their letter, immigrants’ rights groups call on ICE to stop all intakes at Golden State Annex, meet with detained leaders to address their concerns, heed repeated calls by Members of Congress to end the contract for GSA and Mesa Verde detention centers, and meet with advocates to discuss emergency measures to improve access to legal services.

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The California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ) is dedicated to building collective power to end immigrant detention. CCIJ utilizes coordination, advocacy, and legal services to fight for the liberation of immigrants in California. Learn more at and follow CCIJ on Instagram and other social media at @ccijustice (@ccijustice_ on TikTok)


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