On Feb. 16, 84 detained people in the immigration detention centers at Mesa Verde and Golden State Annex (GSA), both in California, began a hunger strike. After two weeks, at least 45 people are still on strike.
The strikers have been demanding that the facilities—operated by the GEO Group, a private contractor—be shut down and the incarcerated immigrants released. This is an outgrowth of the 10-month-long labor strike by immigrant workers in these centers, who have been protesting their “slavery wages” of $1 a day; the lack of fresh and nutritious food, substandard sanitary supplies and medical treatment; and high prices for commissary items and phone calls.
In a complaint filed on Feb. 23, major civil liberties groups stated that GEO had punished strikers with restricted access to recreation, solidarity confinement, abusive “pat-downs,” and other measures. On March 1, over 111 social justice and faith-based organizations signed a letter to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) urging that the hunger strikers be released from custody.
A solidarity rally is planned to take place outside the Mesa Verde detention center in Bakersfield, Calif., on Sunday, March 5. This action coincides with the March 4-11 national mobilization to Stop Cop City, which is protesting construction of a police-training center in the Weelaunee Forest near Atlanta, Ga.
Below we are publishing the text of a flyer distributed by Workers’ Voice members in San Jose, Calif., who are active in solidarity activities for the Mesa Verde and Golden Gate Annex strikers. The text has been slightly edited for clarity.
What is at the heart of the struggle of the immigrant hunger strikers in California and the fight against Cop City in Atlanta, Ga.? The big capitalists are the cause of both the immigration crisis and the environmental crisis. The investment of U.S. capital is employed to obtain raw materials and to multiply profits through the exploitation of cheap labor in underdeveloped countries like Mexico, Central and Latin America, as well as the rest of the world.
This has precipitated the current migration crisis. Large masses of people—impoverished by the consequences of capitalism, such as misery, violence, and drug trafficking—have no other option but to leave their countries in search of employment and a better life in this industrialized nation.
The lords of big capital in the United States try to evade their responsibility for the crisis with hypocrisy and cynicism. Democrats and Republicans in government deploy repressive campaigns against immigrants. Using the National Security Agency, ICE, the Border Patrol, the police, and the National Guard, they intend to install terror within the immigrant community—and not only against them but also against other oppressed minorities such as African Americans, Asians, and Muslims.
This campaign against these minorities is also reflected in the project to build Cop City in Atlanta, a police training center. Besides destroying a forest and recreation area that the nearby African American community enjoys, they also want to turn the project into another nightmare of persecution and death for the mostly working-class communities.
The cynicism and hypocrisy of our great representatives of capital is seen when they review the portfolio of their profits thanks to the benefits of the immigration crisis, while fomenting repression against the exploited and oppressed masses. The combination of repression and the effects of having an excess supply of labor in the market is a source of satisfaction for them because in this way they lower the wages of the entire working class. Using an immigrant and precarious and submissive labor force, they can impose workdays of more than eight hours a day, which gives them a very high profit yield, thanks to an excess of production for which the workers do not receive any recompense from the capitalist.
All these sufferings to which we workers are being subjected by the handful of capitalists in power is what is provoking the resistance of the working class and all the oppressed. The strike by immigrant workers in the Mesa Verde and GSA detention centers in California, refusing to receive merely $1 for eight hours of work, and who are now on hunger strike, demanding their freedom and the closing of those prisons, gives us an idea of the struggle we face in the face of the nefarious exploitative and repressive pretensions of the capitalists.
The struggle of the workers’ communities and activists who defend the environment and say no to environmental destruction and police repression against the Cop City construction project in Atlanta calls us to organize and fight to end capitalism and achieve an independent government of the workers and all the exploited and oppressed: Socialism with democracy! Solidarity with the workers on hunger strike at Mesa Verde and GSA! Solidarity with the struggles of the Black workers and communities fighting Cop City in Atlanta!
Photo: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters