Stockton, California — Today, immigrant rights activists, community leaders and people who have been directly affected by the immigrant detention system gathered for a rally and press conference to call attention to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to jail 1,600 immigrants.
The agreement was made public in June, amidst Trump’s manufactured crisis over family separation to make the case for immigration detention expansion. The expansion into BOP facilities is concentrated in five prisons in California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Texas. As a result, today’s rally and press conference was held at the BOP’s Western Regional Office to target a key decision-maker over the insidious agreement, Mary Mitchell, the BOP’s regional director. Mitchell retires today after over two decades with the BOP.
“Mitchell will forever be known as someone who built her career on targeting and incarcerating black and brown people, only to seal her legacy by partnering with Trump’s hateful xenophobic police force, ICE, in the final year of her employment, “ said Barbara Suarez Galeano, Organizer at Detention Watch Network. “Deadly immigration detention is dangerously metastasizing into new government partnerships, making any agency that goes into these agreements complicit in ICE abuses and practices.”
The transfers to BOP facilities effectively served as a way for ICE to increase its detention capacity by close to four percent overnight without any oversight or prior notice. The majority of the detention beds under the agreement are at the Victorville Federal Correctional Complex in California where 1,000 beds are allocated for people in ICE custody.
“We demand the immediate liberation of people detained and an end to the brutality these BOP and ICE contracts have inflicted — no human being should be incarcerated for their immigration status and experience inhumane conditions,” said Lyzzeth Mendoza, Community Engagement and Policy Associate at ICIJ. She continued, “immigrants incarcerated in Victorville have suffered from chicken pox and scabies causing folks to endure days of quarantine and near death experiences.”
Although the conditions in Victorville are particularly horrific, everyone held within BOP facilities are a part of the larger ICE immigration detention system that is fraught with abuse.
“Immigration detention is designed to strip people of their dignity and deny them of their inherent rights,” said Wendy Pantoja of NWDC Resistance, a group in Washington State fighting to end immigration detention starting with the notorious Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. “We must end immigration detention in its entirety, from terminating the contracts with BOP to abolishing ICE and any other form of jailing and surveilling immigrants by a different name.”
Today’s rally and press conference from groups spanning the West Coast to call attention to the dangerous partnership between BOP and ICE underscores the important and necessary collaboration amongst immigrant rights groups and racial justice allies to fight back against Trump’s hateful agenda.
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org
The Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ) is the local coalition of the Inland Empire region dedicated to convening organizations to collectively advocate and work to improve the lives of immigrant communities while working toward a just solution to the immigration system. Founded in 2008 by immigrants rights groups, ICIJ continues to strive to build collective power and partnerships on a local and state level. www.ic4ij.org
NWDC Resistance is a volunteer community group that emerged to fight deportations in 2014 at the now-infamous Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA. NWDC Resistance supports people detained who organize hunger strikes asking for a halt to all deportations and better treatment and conditions.