BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Local advocates rallied outside the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield in support of inmates during the coronavirus crisis.
Groups drove by the detention center on Golden State Avenue, holding signs and and honking their horns. One of the advocates says the inmates held a sit-in protest in the yard Friday, and a hunger strike Thursday night.
17 News reached out to ICE about the claim of a hunger strike and spokesperson Jonathan Moor said there was no hunger strike at the facility.
Part of the statement read: “No detainees have missed their facility provided meals, nor declared a hunger strike to staff.”
Protesters also demanded the facility give inmates testing for COVID-19 and protective gear like hand sanitizer and masks, and also abide by social distancing rules.
“They’re very vulnerable to getting the virus. There are many people in there who have health issues,” Valeria Beliz, a protester at the rally, said.
ICE’s statement to 17 News did not respond to advocates’ demands for COVID-19 protections for inmates against the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered the release of two immigrants detained at Mesa Verde on the grounds that their age and medical conditions make them especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
Read ICE’s full statement to 17 News below:
“There is no hunger strike occurring at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Mesa Verde Detention Facility. Today’s claims to the contrary are completely false. This deceptive tactic exploits the plight of detainees and delegitimizes the integrity of media outlets that unwittingly report these lies as factual. No detainees have missed their facility provided meals, nor declared a hunger strike to staff.Jonathan Moor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
False allegations of hunger strikes have been repeatedly made in recent days at multiple locations across the nation in self-proclaimed “news releases,” social media posts and anonymous tips to the media. These lies appear to be a shameful, coordinated campaign against truth. This disinformation campaign continues to be waged even after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has addressed these claims as false. This disgusting false propaganda being perpetrated by local so-called advocacy groups under the premise of helping detainees does nothing more than spread misinformation that incites unnecessary fear throughout the community and among detainees.
At this time, more than ever, those who spread these lies do a damaging disservice to the individuals and communities they claim to represent.”