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In this file photo,  men work in the laundry room at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility.

The city of McFarland has pulled out of an agreement to operate the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield, raising questions about who might become the new local partner required to keep it open.

City Manager John Wooner told The Californian the city sent notice on Wednesday to Geo Group Inc., which runs the facility on behalf of the city and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He said the McFarland City Council voted in closed session about three months ago to end its agreement with Geo that permitted the operation of the facility at the Bakersfield location.

It will take 90 days before the city's withdrawal from the agreement takes effect, Wooner said.

He said the city recently re-evaluated its agreement to operate the facility and decided to pull out following a change of heart among the councilmembers regarding the operation of the facility.

He would not elaborate.

“The council has decided it doesn’t want to be a part of it anymore,” he said.

McFarland Mayor Manuel Cantu Jr. also provided no reasons for the city’s withdrawal from the agreement.

“GEO is a wonderful and amicable company that continues to operate in our city and is committed to supporting our community,” Cantu said in an email.

The city was paid about $35,000 a year to be a partner with ICE, Wooner said.

McFarland paid Geo with funds it received from ICE, according to the agreement between Geo and the city.

Wooner added that Geo runs three prisons within McFarland and it will continue to operate them.

City Attorney Tom Schroeter said ICE is required to secure a local public agency to operate a detention facility in any given area.

For Mesa Verde, that public agency was the city of McFarland, and the city contracted Geo to handle the daily operations of the detention facility.

“If we back out, I guess they have to find another public agency to step in,” he said.

It is unclear how McFarland’s decision will impact the operation of Mesa Verde.

Schroeter said he did not know exactly what would become of the facility now that McFarland has pulled out of the agreement between itself and ICE, which is known as an intergovnermental services agreement.

Neither did the Bakersfield City Attorney’s Office.

Representatives of ICE and Geo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mesa Verde declined to comment.

Mesa Verde holds 400 detainees on behalf of ICE, according to Geo’s website.

The facility, located on Golden State Avenue, had been a private prison that was not operating prior to a $10 million upgrade by Geo.

The facility reopened in 2015, this time as an immigration processing facility.

When it reopened, a Geo spokesperson said the facility would hold 300 men and 100 women, most of them foreign nationals who had been convicted of a crime, and some with pending immigration cases, although none would be serving criminal sentences in the facility.

Local volunteers who visit the facility have said some of the detainees housed in the facility have pending requests for asylum, and they wait in the facility while their cases move through the court system.

The volunteers say some of the detainees are felons awaiting deportation, and others have misdemeanor charges. They wait in Mesa Verde for their immigration statuses to be determined by a judge.

Geo recently purchased and demolished the Bakersfield Dome, which sat next to Mesa Verde.

At the time of the sale in July, the owner of the Dome said that Geo planned to expand the detention facility into the area occupied by the dome.

Geo countered the claim, saying in a statement to The Californian it was purchasing the property to create a “secure buffer” between Mesa Verde and the surrounding neighborhood.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415 or smorgen@bakersfield.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(4) comments


Both the Bakersfield Historic Preservation Commission and the Kern County Historical Society sent letters asking that The Dome be spared. Their response? They got their demolition permit secured and the building down before anyone could take legal action to stop it. They were in such a hurry to get it down they couldn't even wait for the utilities to be disconnected leaving a rump ruin of a structure still standing on the site. Question: In addition to getting that remaining ruin removed what are they going to do about dust mitigation for what is now open exposed ground formerly covered by buildings and landscaping?

In response to citizen inquiries, Councilmember Gonzales asked if it was on any historic registers. No, it was not. And neither are many other buildings including ones designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Cliff May, Green & Green and other architects of note or buildings of historic and cultural importance. In the case of The Dome, no one even know it was threatened before it had been acquired by the GEO Group with plans to demo the place set.

The point is the total number of buildings so registered as historic is in the teens. That is a comment about how preservation codes in Bakersfield and Kern work vs. blaming concerned citizens for coming to the table late.

This community needs to adopt the provisions of the Mills Act. This would work for the benefit of the community and property owners. That we haven't done that and otherwise changed codes so the Commission is notified when someone wants to demo historic buildings are points that need to be brought to our members of the city council.


This is why we need stiffer immigration laws...


“secure buffer” . . . ? I second ISpy on this BIGTIME!

Why have we allowed an 'MS-13 Sanctuary' here in Bako anyway . . . so far from the border? And at the sacrifice of an historic "DOME PALACE"? All these detention centers should hug the border far from cities (in desert unincorporated areas) for quick return back "over the WALL". Was this just another Bako City Council "Enterprise Unit" undertaking for the new sales tax "¢¢'s-on-the-$" ($35K?)? And all as against the millions it will eventually cost the Southern San Joaquin Valley (taxpayers/legal voters) in crime (with mountain buffers as escape routes & hiding places)?? This is not a prison, so 'easy on, easy off' is the name of the game! And mostly all thanks to the ACLU seeking 'multi-ethnic motor voters' for SAC! Kern BOS, listen up as you are also vulnerable (& culpable) with one Supv. already in court (shoulda been an agenda item). Wanna guess McFarland's reasons anymore?

For shame . . . (and recall like Travis Allen's NEW recall PAC for the "Newest Newsom")!

Semper Fortis . . . !


The city of McFarland partnered to run an ICE facility in the city of Bakersfield...and for only $35k a year? Where was the rest of the millions of dollars that GEO makes coming from? And then GEO was so confident in that arrangement, that they tore down one of our local city's icons for it, only for their satellite city partner to back out shortly after? Also, why is McFarland being so mum about their reasons for backing out?? Aren't city decisions supposed to be part of public discourse? There is so much I still don't understand about the way these things work! I suppose it will be interesting to see who picks ICE up as a partnership (particularly with the ACLU now located close by.) I doubt the GEO company, itself, is going anywhere.

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