Statement: Immigration Advocates: ICE, GEO Mesa Verde Contract Raises Transparency and Accountability Concerns

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Immigration advocates in California are deeply alarmed over the legality of a newly announced $19 million contract between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the GEO Group, Inc. to continue the operations of the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, California.  Following the City of McFarland’s decision to end its contract with ICE, which had made the city an intermediary between ICE and GEO, the facility faced closure because California’s Dignity Not Detention Act prohibits any new state or local government contracts for ICE detention.

ICE did not provide any information in advance of the sudden announcement that a direct contract had already been entered into by ICE and GEO, despite numerous inquiries from stakeholders. Critically, the direct contract was entered into without the competitive bidding process required by federal law. ICE cited “unusual and compelling urgency” as the basis for circumventing the usual and mandatory bidding requirements and executing the one-year contract.

In response to the complete lack of transparency that has taken place with regard to the fate of the Mesa Verde facility and ICE’s execution of a direct, multimillion-dollar contract with the notorious GEO Group, a coalition of advocates issued the following statement:

Mesa Verde Detention Facility is yet another example of ICE and private prison companies keeping the public in the dark in order to continue profiting off of the mass incarceration of immigrants. Following months of inquiries by congressional offices, community advocates and the media regarding the future of the facility, ICE has shown it is incapable of transparency and accountability. The recent unilateral contract executed by ICE and GEO Group raises serious state and federal legal questions that warrant immediate inquiry and action. The one-year, $19,377,500 agreement was based on dubious legal authority and seems to be solely focused on continuing the operation of this facility, regardless of legal restrictions, procedures, or the well-being of detained individuals.

In attempting to justify the contract, ICE claimed: “Delaying award of a sole-source contract would require ICE to relocate almost 400 detainees to other facilities, some with serious medical conditions, only to be relocated once the new contract is awarded. This would result in serious injury to the detainees as well as incur an unnecessary serious financial burden to cover the cost of relocating such a large population.”

ICE’s statement misleadingly suggests that there are no alternatives to detention for the nearly 400 individuals at Mesa Verde and that the only solution is to reward a corporation set up to profit from civil detention. The for-profit detention of immigrants is reprehensible and dehumanizing, and our federal government should be held accountable for its underhanded award of millions, in circumvention of federal law, to a corporation that recorded revenues of $2.33 billion in 2018, while being sued for forcing immigrants to work for $1 a day in their facilities.

The fact that ICE used the medical conditions of detained individuals as part of the legal basis to bypass the public bidding process is bitterly ironic, as ICE has the power to free those with serious medical needs from detention, and yet refuses to do so. In addition, the California Attorney General’s office released a report on detention conditions this month, which noted that the most recent inspection of Mesa Verde by ICE’s own Office of Detention Oversight found the facility deficient with regard to medical care.

ICE should not be allowed to outsource the dirty work of immigration detention to third parties outside the bounds of federal law and without transparency. We demand that ICE take full responsibility for the detention apparatus and deportation machine that it has created. If it is unwilling to do so then it must accept freedom as the only alternative to the dehumanization and detention of immigrants.

Media contacts:

Jose Servin

Social Media & Communications Coordinator,

California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance

(714) 728-2520

Liz Martinez

Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications,

Freedom for Immigrants

(956) 572-4349

Hamid Yazdan Panah

Regional Director,

Northern California Rapid Response and Immigrant Defense Network

(415) 782-8912

Organizational Sign-ons:

1.                   Freedom For Immigrants

2.                   California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance: Home – (CIYJA)

3.                   Northern California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (NCCIJ)

4.                   A. L. Costa Community Development. Ctr.

5.                   Action Team for Immigrants’ Rights UUC Ventura

6.                   African Advocacy Network

7.                   Alianza Americas

8.                   Alianza Sacramento

9.                   Arab Resource & Organizing Center

10.               Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles

11.               Asian Law Caucus: Asian Americans Advancing Justice

12.               Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC)

13.               Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach

14.               Bend the Arc: Jewish Action of Southern California

15.               Buen Vecino

16.               California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation

17.               Carecen of Northern CA

18.               Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County

19.               Catholic Worker Movement

20.               Center for Gender & Refugee Studies – California

21.               Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice

22.               Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto

23.               Council on American-Islamic Relations-Central California

24.               Dolores Street Community Services

25.               Education and Leadership Foundation

26.               Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin

27.               Faith in the Valley

28.               Friends of Broward Detainees

29.               Houston DSA EcoSocialists

30.               Humboldt Rapid Response Network

31.               Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC)

32.               Coastside Immigration Action Group

33.               Immigration Committee of National Lawyers Guild SF Chapter

34.               Immigration Task Force of Monterey County

35.               Indivisible San Fernando Valley

36.               Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice

37.               Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity

38.               Justice & Diversity Center of The Bar Association of San Francisco

39.               Kehilla Community Synagogue

40.               Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)

41.               Kern Welcoming and Extending Solidarity to Immigrants

42.               La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco

43.               Los Angeles Raids Rapid Response Network

44.               La Raza Community Resource Center

45.               LAGAI — Queer Insurrection

46.               Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area

47.               Legal Services for Children

48.               Ministers of Claremont United Church of Christ

49.               NorCal Resist

50.               North Bay Organizing Project

51.               North Bay Rapid Response Network: Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties

52.               Northern California Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association

53.               University of San Francisco immigration and deportation defense clinic

54.               Northern California Rapid Response and Immigrant Defense Network (NCRRIDN)

55.               Immigrant Center for Women and Children (ICWC)

56.               Oakland Community Organizations

57.               Oakland Law Collaborative

58.               Orange County Rapid Response Network

59.               Pacifica Social Justice

60.               Pangea Legal Services

61.               Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!)

62.               Rapid Response Network in Santa Clara County

63.               Rapid Response Network of Monterey County

64.               Refugee Support Network

65.               Resilience OC

66.               San Diego Rapid Response Network

67.               SFV Indivisible – Immigration

68.               California Raid’s Response Steering Committee

69.               Social Justice Collaborative

70.               Southern Central Coast Rapid Response Network

71.               Step Up! Sacramento

72.               The Multicultural Center of Marin

73.               UFW Foundation

74.               United Now for Immigrant Rights

75.               Watsonville Law Center

76.               WE Rise SF/ Labor Center for Immigrant Justice

77.               Mujeres Unidas y Activas: MUA

78.   Innovation Law Lab

79. Pajaro Valley Rapid Response Network

80. Fiesta Familiar de la Costa Central[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]