back to Screen-Friendly page


Immigration Advocates: ICE, GEO Mesa Verde Contract Raises Transparency and Accountability Concerns 


Immigration advocates in California are deeply alarmed over the legality of a newly announced $19 million contract between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and GEO Group, Inc. to continue the operations of the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, California. Following the City of McFarland’s decision to end its contract with ICE, which had made the city an intermediary between ICE and GEO, the facility faced closure because California’s Dignity Not Detention Act prohibits any new state or local government contracts for ICE detention.

ICE did not provide any information in advance of the sudden announcement that a direct contract had already been entered into by ICE and GEO, despite numerous inquiries from stakeholders. Critically, the direct contract was entered into without the competitive bidding process required by federal law. ICE cited “unusual and compelling urgency” as the basis for circumventing the usual and mandatory bidding requirements and executing the one-year contract.

In response to the complete lack of transparency that has taken place with regard to the fate of the Mesa Verde facility and ICE’s execution of a direct, multimillion-dollar contract with the notorious GEO Group, a coalition of advocates issued the following statement:

Mesa Verde Detention Facility is yet another example of ICE and private prison companies keeping the public in the dark in order to continue profiting off of the mass incarceration of immigrants. Following months of inquiries by congressional offices, community advocates and the media regarding the future of the facility, ICE has shown it is incapable of transparency and accountability. The recent unilateral contract executed by ICE and GEO Group raises serious state and federal legal questions that warrant immediate inquiry and action. The one year, $19,377,500 agreement was based on dubious legal authority and seems to be solely focused on continuing the operation of this facility, regardless of legal restrictions, procedures, or the well-being of detained individuals.

In attempting to justify the contract, ICE claimed: “Delaying award of a sole-source contract would require ICE to relocate almost 400 detainees to other facilities, some with serious medical conditions, only to be relocated once the new contract is awarded. This would result in serious injury to the detainees as well as incur an unnecessary serious financial burden to cover the cost of relocating such a large population.”

ICE’s statement misleadingly suggests that there are no alternatives to detention for the nearly 400 individuals at Mesa Verde and that the only solution is to reward a corporation set up to profit from civil detention. The for-profit detention of immigrants is reprehensible and dehumanizing, and our federal government should be held accountable for its underhanded award of millions, in circumvention of federal law, to a corporation that recorded revenues of $2.33 billion in 2018, while being sued for forcing immigrants to work for $1 a day in their facilities. 

The fact that ICE used the medical conditions of detained individuals as part of the legal basis to bypass the public bidding process is bitterly ironic, as ICE has the power to free those with serious medical needs from detention, and yet refuses to do so. In addition, the California Attorney General’s office released a report on detention conditions this month, which noted that the most recent inspection of Mesa Verde by ICE’s own Office of Detention Oversight found the facility deficient with regard to medical care.

ICE should not be allowed to outsource the dirty work of immigration detention to third parties outside the bounds of federal law and without transparency. We demand that ICE take full responsibility for the detention apparatus and deportation machine that it has created. If it is unwilling to do so then it must accept freedom as the only alternative to the dehumanization and detention of immigrants.

Media contacts:

Jose Servin
Social Media & Communications Coordinator
California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
(714) 728-2520

Liz Martinez
Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications Freedom for Immigrants
(956) 572-4349

Hamid Yazdan Panah
Regional Director, Northern California Rapid Response and Immigrant Defense Network
(415) 782-8912



  1. Freedom For Immigrants
  2. California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance: Home - CIYJA
  3. Northern California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (NCCIJ)
  4. A. L. Costa Community Development. Ctr.
  5. Action Team for Immigrants' Rights UUC Ventura
  6. African Advocacy Network
  7. Alianza Americas
  8. Alianza Sacramento
  9. Arab Resource & Organizing Center
  10. Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles
  11. Asian Law Caucus: Asian Americans Advancing Justice
  12. Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC
  13. Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach
  14. Bend the Arc: Jewish Action of Southern California
  15. Buen Vecino
  16. California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
  17. Carecen of Northern CA
  18. Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
  19. Catholic Worker Movement
  20. Center for Gender & Refugee Studies – California
  21. Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice
  22. Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto
  23. Council on American-Islamic Relations-Central California
  24. Dolores Street Community Services
  25. Education and Leadership Foundation
  26. Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin
  27. Faith in the Valley
  28. Fiesta Familiar de la Costa Central
  29. Friends of Broward Detainees
  30. Houston DSA EcoSocialists
  31. Humboldt Rapid Response Network
  32. Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC)
  33. Coastside Immigration Action Group
  34. Immigration Committee of National Lawyers Guild SF Chapter
  35. Immigration Task Force of Monterey County
  36. Indivisible San Fernando Valley
  37. Innovation Law Lab
  38. Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice
  39. Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity
  40. Justice & Diversity Center of The Bar Association of San Francisco
  41. Kehilla Community Synagogue
  42. Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
  43. Kern Welcoming and Extending Solidarity to Immigrants
  44. La Raza Centro Legal, San Francisco
  45. Los Angeles Raids Rapid Response Network
  46. La Raza Community Resource Center
  47. LAGAI -- Queer Insurrection
  48. Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area 
  49. Legal Services for Children
  50. Ministers of Claremont United Church of Christ
  51. Mujeres Unidas y Activas: MUA
  52. NorCal Resist
  53. North Bay Organizing Project
  54. North Bay Rapid Response Network: Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties
  55. Northern California Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association
  56. University of San Francisco immigration and deportation defense clinic
  57. Northern California Rapid Response and Immigrant Defense Network (NCRRIDN)
  58. Immigrant Center for Women and Children (ICWC)
  59. Oakland Community Organizations
  60. Oakland Law Collaborative
  61. Orange County Rapid Response Network
  62. Pacifica Social Justice
  63. Pajaro Valley Rapid Response Network
  64. Pangea Legal Services
  65. Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!)
  66. Rapid Response Network in Santa Clara County
  67. Rapid Response Network of Monterey County
  68. Refugee Support Network
  69. Resilience OC
  70. San Diego Rapid Response Network
  71. SFV Indivisible - Immigration
  72. California Raid’s Response Steering Committee
  73. Social Justice Collaborative
  74. Southern Central Coast Rapid Response Network
  75. Step Up! Sacramento
  76. The Multicultural Center of Marin
  77. UFW Foundation
  78. United Now for Immigrant Rights
  79. Watsonville Law Center
  80. WE Rise SF/ Labor Center for Immigrant Justice




The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) advances fairness and equality by providing pro bono legal services to low-income people and educational programs that foster diversity in the legal profession. JDC is the largest legal services providers in San Francisco. JDC’s primary purpose is the delivery of free legal services to low-income San Franciscans, as well as the non-profits that serve them. JDC delivers free legal services through its  Legal Services Programs  division, which consists of the Pro Bono Legal Services Program, Homeless Advocacy Project, and the Immigration Program. JDC provides enrichment programs to diverse youth and young adults through its Diversity Educational Programs.  JDC’s programs serve approximately 9,500 disadvantaged San Franciscans a year, with the overarching goal of assisting the community’s most vulnerable members with accessing the judicial system and strengthening their personal, professional, and economic security.

The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of attorneys, law students, and legal professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF enjoys the support of more than 7,500 individuals, law firms, corporate legal departments, and law schools. Through its board of directors, its committees, and its volunteer legal services programs and other community efforts, BASF has worked actively to promote and achieve equal justice for all and oppose discrimination in all its forms, including, but not limited to, discrimination based on race, sex, disability, and sexual orientation. BASF provides a collective voice for public advocacy, advances professional growth and education, and attempts to elevate the standards of integrity, honor, and respect in the practice of law.