Activists rally in support of hunger strikers in Yuba County Jail
Little to no contact with loved ones. Lack of access to basic health care. Barriers to adequate legal counsel. Lockdowns that last up to 22 hours a day.
These are just some of the reported abuses that jeopardize the fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who have been taken from their families and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in California.
In February, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released findings from the Department of Justice’s review of immigration detention facilities in the state. The DOJ’s report details these aforementioned abuses – and more – at state detention centers.
One of our region’s facilities detaining immigrants, Yuba County Jail in Marysville, is no exception.
The jail has been under court order to improve conditions at the site for 40 years, and long before it signed an agreement to house those detained by ICE.
In the past five years alone, there have been at least 41 suicide attempts by individuals being held at the jail.
Having struggled for years to provide adequate housing for the general population, how can this facility care for immigrants who are being held for indeterminate amounts of time?
By all accounts, it can’t – even with a contract with ICE that amounts to up to $6.5 million a year.
It is critical to note that many detained immigrants are held pending civil, not criminal, immigration proceedings – often because they cannot afford to pay bond.
Despite that fact, immigrants in detention at Yuba County Jailreport
cells without working lights or water, a roach infestation, drinking water that tastes like rust and lead, and not receiving medical attention for weeks at a time.
They also report not being allowed to have contact visits with their children.
From June 30 to July 6, immigrants detained at the Northern California facility held their third hunger strike in 10 months to protest ongoing failures by jail and county officials to correct inhumane conditions at the jail.
“Unfortunately, in the situation we find ourselves in, we might get deported to third world countries and we don’t know if we will ever be able to see, let along hug, our kids again,” one hunger striker said. “We want to bring the injustice of the immigration system out for everyone to see and realize what’s going on.”
The strikes have resulted in little to no change at the facility.
Yuba County Jail’s current system of monitoring and inspections for detained immigrants is woefully inadequate and fails to address even the most serious health and safety issues.
The jail must comprehensively re-examine its monitoring processes and improve follow-up for corrective actions. It must ensure that inspections are thorough, accurate and that it is open to unannounced visits.
There is also a need for external monitors with medical expertise, as well as a need to systematically collect, analyze and present inspection results to the public. This report should include information on suicide attempts, hunger strikes, work program stoppages, solitary confinement and uses of force. If repeat findings of substantial noncompliance continue, the county’s contract with ICE should end within 60 days.
Taking these basic actions ensures justice and dignity for immigrants in detention and mitigates and responds to the well-documented harms to both the immigrant and non-immigrant populations at Yuba County Jail.
We cannot turn a blind eye amid the cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of our own community members – our neighbors – in detention.
The need for transparency and accountability has never been greater, and the stakes could not be higher for those detained nationwide, including in our own backyard.