Bakersfield: Community Protests outside ICE Processing Center

Photo Credit: La Hummingbird Flicks

By Serran Soledad & Vanessa Garcia

Protesters rallied outside the Mesa Verde Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center in Bakersfield, California on Saturday, demanding the release of undocumented youth detained at ICE facilities across the US. The protest, meant as a follow-up to actions held in January, hoped to put pressure on the newly inaugurated President Biden.

Owned by the GEO Group, a 2-billion-dollar real estate investment company which provides prisons and detention centers to government agencies across the globe, the Mesa Verde Processing Center has been operational since 2015, with a capacity of 400 people.

The facility has been the target of previous protests and hunger strikes, with its inmates reporting having to endure poor conditions and a lack of COVID-19 precautions while detained at the facility.

The GEO Group has recently established several new contracts with ICE for the development of more facilities, including one in Kern County, California, which will increase the county’s total “bed space” to 1,800.

Saturday’s protest began at Beale Park around 11am, as community members and various organizations gathered, raising protest signs and a large banner reading, “No More Kids in Cages, No More Silence.” From there, a caravan was led to Mill Creek Park, from which the crowd then marched to the processing center.

The well-known presence of Proud Boys and other reactionary groups throughout Bakersfield prompted California Brown Beret chapters from Merced, Los Angeles, Santa Paula, and Bakersfield to attend, acting as a line of defense for the protest.

Brown Beret officers stood in formation holding shields as protesters rallied in the streets. After arriving at Mesa Verde, they agitated with chants of “What’s outrageous? Kids in cages!”

The action lasted close to 4 hours, concluding with protesters taping posters to the Mesa Verde fence before circling back to Mill Creek Park.

As Biden’s pledge to reunite families separated at the border goes unmet and the ruling class continues to utilize undocumented immigrants as cheap labor to be disposed of as they see fit, protests against detention facilities like the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center will inevitably continue.

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