FEBRUARY 19, 2020
Alliance of local farmworkers, formerly detained immigrants defeat GEO Group’s bid to expand immigration detention in McFarland, CA
McFarland, CA–Immigrant rights advocates are celebrating a significant victory this week in the town of McFarland, CA, where courageous grassroots organizing by hundreds of local residents – including many farmworkers who dedicated hours to outreaching door to door – led to a surprise defeat for multi-billion dollar corporation GEO. The controversial company had sought permission from the local planning commission to turn two soon-to-close local prison facilities into immigration detention centers, pre-negotiating an agreement with the commission.
However, in what a local news report called a “stunning turn of events,” an outcry from farmworker residents led to a 2-2 split at the commission, effectively defeating GEO. While GEO has vowed to appeal the denial to the City Council, McFarland’s Mayor resigned today in the wake of the community outcry.
The proposed expansion of the detention centers has been slammed as an illicit attempt to skirt California’s AB 32, which bans for-profit detention centers and prisons.
Immigrant rights organizers say the victory points to a powerful trend: workers flexing their muscles to achieve broader social justice aims. Many migrant workers had made it clear they would leave McFarland, fearing detention capacity would increase ICE enforcement in the region. It was testimonies from these local farm workers that had an impact on Commissioner Rudy Nuñez to vote deny the permit.
“We want schools, not immigration detention centers,” McFarland farmworkers resounded in chants and testimonies, arguing that those of the sorts of jobs the city should be investing in.
“Our strength is in community,” said Doña Teresa Figueroa, resident of McFarland and Faith in the Valley, who organized local community members. “It’s important to not be afraid, and to have faith in the people, in God, and in the work that we are doing when we put people over profit.”
The Dignity not Detention Coalition, made up of local, state, and national organizations, worked to pass AB 32, and is standing with local activists in McFarland; in Adelanto, which faces a vote tonight, and across the state.