Summary

Welcome back to the Perilous Podcast, a news and oral history project featuring original interviews with prisoners and detainees who have participated in or witnessed protests, uprisings and other forms of unrest behind bars. We also gather analysis and insight from researchers and advocates in an effort to build a better understanding of systems of incarceration and collective action and strategy. 

This week, we cover the hunger strike that occurred in early June at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center. The hunger strike, which began on June 4 and lasted about 5 days, involved at least 70 detainees, although the exact number is unknown. The strikers released a statement expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement. They wrote,

We, the detained people of dormitories A, B, and C at Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility, are protesting and on hunger strike in solidarity with the detained people at Otay Mesa Detention Center. We begin our protest in memory of our comrades George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Oscar Grant, and Tony McDade. Almost all of us have also suffered through our country’s corrupt and racist criminal justice system before being pushed into the hands of ICE.

Mr. Asif Qazi, a detainee at Mesa Verde, went on to explain what he and his fellow strikers were attempting to do: 

We support their cause for protesting against a corrupt justice system and corrupt law officials. We’re trying to intertwine our causes in one general fight for justice, and we believe ICE falls in the category of corrupt justice officials.

The detainees later released a video statement, further expressing their solidarity with the uprising against the murder of George Floyd and linking their efforts to the one in streets. 

In order to better understand what happened at Mesa Verde, we interviewed Jack Herrera about his coverage of the strike. Jack Herrera is an independent journalist focusing on immigration, refugee issues, and human rights. His work has appeared in The Nation, Politico Magazine, Columbia Journalism Review, Popular Science, TruthOut, Pacific Standard and more. He is currently based in San Francisco and frequently travels to Mexico. His article about the hunger strike at Mesa Verde was published in PRISM. In addition to agreeing to do an interview with us, Mr. Herrera also shared with us audio from his interview with Mr. Qazi, which we’ll play for you throughout the show. Special thanks to Mr. Herrera for his help in telling this story.

Perilous Chronicle is run by a small group of dedicated volunteers and very little funding. If you value our work, please support us by visiting our website and donating via PayPal or Patreon and rate and follow us on iTunes. With your help, we can expand our efforts to track, document and archive the stories of prisoners and detainees who are standing up for themselves in the midst of overwhelming odds. Perilous relies on crowdsourced information for our grassroots tracking and archival efforts. If you have information or are in touch with a prisoner or detainee who has witnessed or been involved in a protest or other form of unrest, please get in touch with us at info@perilouschronicle.com.

Interview with Jack Herrera:

Links:

The Death of Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia of COVID-19 in ICE Custody:

Death of Choung Won Ahn in ICE custody:

Death of Oscar Lopez Acosta of COVID-19 in ICE custody:

Thanks to the American Immigration Lawyers Association for their tracking efforts.

Recent Articles by Jack Herrera: