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In this 2015 file photo, a detainee waits to be seen by a doctor at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield.

A group of more than 70 legal service providers and advocacy groups are calling for more transparency of the Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility in Bakersfield that could potentially be on the brink of closing.

The GEO Group Inc., which runs the facility, has maintained a silence since the city of McFarland pulled out of an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that provided the legal basis for operations at Mesa Verde.

ICE, which contracted with McFarland to house the detainees in Bakersfield, has issued few public statements since McFarland gave notice in December that it planned to terminate an intergovernmental service agreement it had with the federal agency.

Legal experts say the agreement, known as an IGSA, is required to keep the facility open. Since McFarland terminated the agreement, the fate of the 400 detainees has remained an open question.

“We are profoundly concerned about the fate of the people imprisoned in the Mesa Verde facility, and what the future holds for them,” the group of over 70 advocates said in a collective press release. “The fact that we have not been provided any information about whether they face transfer, relocation, or release, leaves legal service providers unable to mobilize and coordinate the resources that may be necessary if this facility were to be closed.”

In response to a request for comment, GEO directed The Californian to speak with ICE.

ICE said it planned to use Mesa Verde as long as a viable contract remained in effect, but it said it could use other facilities across the U.S. if that no longer became an option.

"ICE does operate a national system of detention bed space and will house detainees in other facilities as needed," Richard Rocha, a spokesman for ICE said in a statement. "If the facility is no longer available, each case will be reviewed and determinations on continued detention and potential transfers will be made on a case-by-case basis."

Many of the detainees inside Mesa Verde, which is located on Golden State Avenue, are in the process of requesting asylum to the United States. Although many come from Central and South America, others came from Africa and Asia, and are in the midst of legal proceedings that could be disrupted if they are moved to facilities outside California.

“Access to counsel is a fundamental right, and any plans to move detained individuals who are in the middle of legal proceedings undermine this right,” the group said in a statement. “The uncertainty with regards to these individuals’ access to local legal service providers disrupts our ability to coordinate representation and violates the due process rights of these individuals.”

A stipulation in the contract McFarland held with ICE gave ICE 90 days before a termination would come into effect.

McFarland notified ICE it intended to terminate the IGSA on Dec. 19, making the possible closure date of Mesa Verde March 19.

Complicating the matter, California passed a law in 2017 that prevented cities and counties from entering into new contracts with ICE to hold noncitizens, which could potentially leave ICE with little choice but to pull out of Mesa Verde.

Yet neither ICE nor GEO have made any indication of what could happen to the facility.

The list of groups that signed the statement included the American Civil Liberties Union of California, as well as other national immigrants rights organizations such as Freedom for Immigrants and local groups such as Kern Welcoming and Extending Solidarity to Immigrants and the Women’s March Kern County.

The groups demanded that if Mesa Verde was to be closed, that ICE provide an exact timeline for the closure, including what plans exist for the transfer, relocation or release of those detained at the facility.

They also demanded that any detainee eligible to be released be reunited with their families if the facility should close.

Other cities across the United States have shut down immigrant detention facilities after terminating IGSAs with ICE, although the exact number is unclear.

Each time a facility is closed, the detainees are transferred to other detention centers, potentially in other states, which can have the effect of transporting detainees farther from their families.

Some detainees housed in Mesa Verde have family members that live in southern California, according to local volunteers. If the facility closes, they could be moved to locations too far away for their families to visit, which advocates say can put strain on the individuals as well as their families.

Sam Morgen can be reached at 661-395-7415. Follow him on Twitter: @smorgenTBC.

(11) comments

ckeown

"ICE, which contracted with McFarland to house the detainees in Bakersfield, has issued few public statements since McFarland gave notice in December that it planned to terminate an intergovernmental service agreement it had with the federal agency."
This many levels of bureaucracy was not successful? I'm shocked!

Kathy

The ICE facility in Bako is hindered by emotive reckless organizations. If you like socialism, move to Venezuela. Surely the sovereignty of the USA concerns you? A list of those who think their emotions come before the law even though the illegals are getting food and shelter at the moment, paid for by you and me. They're fortunate enough to not be kicked out immediately. The best answer to the 11 million illegals in the US; They need to pay $5000 each, making payments over one year. If they don't do it, they will have to leave. Funds go to the wall and the cost they impose upon this country. Legal immigrants such as myself pay for it, they should too.
Some of these groups were founded by Che Guevara and Linda Sarsour. If you don't know the significance of that fact, you need to do some research.

Kathy

Pretty cushy. Fed and kept warm until the immigration laws decide what to do with them. They'll be out of the facility when the law says they'll be out, and all of these organizations can go straight to h*ll...or Venezuela. Take your pick.

Fram Smith

Remember children, don't talk to strangers. Or in this case, people who are payed to make inflammatory comments and live out of the area. REMUDA is one such individual- be advised.
But for us folks who live here, there are several different lessons to be learned First, do you personally have any issues with making a profit off the imprisonment of people in private prisons? If not, you can get about 33% return on your investment in GEO, a publicly traded stock for a company that owns and staffs private detention/prison facilities. GEO has a no- bid contract with ICE to put people in boxes- it is a most profitable business model. So there is your investment tip for the day- buy stock in private prisons. Next, do any of you remember that the city council let GEO tear down the historic Dome to build more boxes to put people in, for a profit? So now that GEO has lost it's contact to operate in downtown Bakersfield, they leave a vacant lot where the Dome use to be. There is so much to unpack here; prisons for profit; the city council doing nothing to save the historic Dome to expand a detention facility that now has lost it's local contract ...my oh my!

Ed

It’s about the money more then the people... send them all home where they belong.

Stephen

ReefRanger, maybe you should get some real information and background on immigration issues somewhere other than those right wing blogs, faux news and other sources that support the false notions of POTUS you are apparently following before you opine on the subject.

As it is, you appear to know as little as the rest of Trump's "deplorables" who, passionate in their opinions, indulge themselves in narratives long proven to be false.

GaryJohns

Shouldn’t you be out looking for Russians or screaming at the moon…?

ReefRanger

So, All of these "rights groups" screamed for sanctuary statehood, and for the evil ICE to be thwarted at every turn.They got their wish, and now, because the poor, downtrodden criminals might be moved far away from their families or otherwise dealt with because of the closure of facilities because cities and counties are terminating contracts, now they are all crying foul. These groups caused this problem, they need to stop crying in their beer and understand that sometimes, you should REALLY be careful what you wish for.

Quick

You must've missed the partt where it says Mesa Verde houses a good number of asylum seekers. Have you seen the inside of that facility? I have and it is inhumane to jail asylum seekers.

REMUDA

Coyote dice... " ! Usted paga su dinero y usted toma sus posibilidades ¡ "

GaryJohns

Head 'em up...Move 'em out...!

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