U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has denied a hunger strike is taking place at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center in Bakersfield.
In an email sent to The Californian late Friday night, the agency countered claims that around 100 detainees inside Mesa Verde had begun a hunger strike to protest what they described as lax precautionary measures against the new coronavirus.
“There is no hunger strike occurring at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Mesa Verde Detention Facility,” ICE spokesman Jonathan Moor said in an email. “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.”
Lawyers for some of the detainees, as well as one of the strike’s leaders in Mesa Verde, Charles Joseph, said the strike was taking place.
Joseph told The Californian he and members of his dorm had discussed their demands with the warden at Mesa Verde and the strike would last as long as possible.
So far, ICE has acknowledged 61 cases of COVID-19 among detainees in ICE custody. Reports of hunger strikes across other ICE detention centers have proliferated across various media outlets over the last several weeks.
ICE called all of the reports deliberate misinformation.
“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,” Moor wrote. “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.”