Hunger Strike at Adelanto Detention Facility, California

Hunger Strike at Adelanto Detention Facility, California

Adelanto Detention Facility West, Adelanto, California
March 14, 2019-(end date unknown)

Approximately 150 immigrant detainees participated in a coordinated food strike at one of the largest privately run immigrant detention facilities in the county, owned and operated by Geo Group. The detainees refused to go to the cafeteria for a regularly-scheduled meal. Following the food strike, some unknown number of detainees participated in a hunger strike, refusing food for a period of time. It is unclear how long the hunger strike lasted, but as of March 20, at least some detainees were still refusing food.

The strikers’ demands included adequate medical care, an end to what they describe as abusive treatment, and access to edible, nutritious food.

According to Lizbeth Abeln of the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ICIJ), the detainees were upset by an incident the week before during which a young detainee was beaten by at least one guard and then did not receive immediate medical care.

“There are no doctors here,” said Roberto Vargas, a hunger striker who spoke with NBC Las Angeles via telephone. “Two days ago my chest started to hurt, I know how you feel when you are having an attack. And they do not care.”

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denied the existence of the hunger strike. For ICE to recognize a hunger strike, detainees must go 72 hours without eating anything, including food from commissary purchases.

On March 28, 2019 the City of Adelanto announced that it would end its contract with Geo Group, a move that drew criticism from immigrant rights groups and others. The announcement followed a series of such decisions in locations throughout California. Those criticizing the decisions have expressed concern that the cancelled contracts will allow private prison corporations to contract directly with ICE, removing an important layer of democratic oversight.

The ICIJ also held a demonstration outside the detention facility on April 10, demanding that it be shut down.  The High Desert Christian Leadership Conference also hosted a workshop on the “impacts of immigrant detention centers” on local communities and on the conditions at the Adelanto Detention Facility.

The facility received scathing criticism in the years leading up the the strike, including a report from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General detailing numerous dangerous conditions at the facility, including a culture of indifference among guards and staff to suicide attempts on the part of the detainees. During one surprise visit, inspectors reported finding nooses made from bed sheets in 15 out of 20 cells.


Immigrant detainees stage hunger strike at Adelanto facility“, The Sun, March 20, 2019. 

ICE, immigrant rights advocates dispute hunger strike at Adelanto facility“, The Sun, March 21, 2019.

Adelanto cuts ties to troubled ICE detention center — and removes a layer of oversight“, LA Times, April 8, 2019.


Nooses in cells, rotting teeth — report details harsh conditions at Adelanto immigration facility“, LA Times, October 8, 2019.

At Largest ICE Detention Center in the Country, Guards Called Attempted Suicides ‘Failures’“, The Intercept, October 11, 2018.