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At a federal court hearing last week, Moises Becerra, a top official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, discussed a plan to safely repopulate the Mesa Verde immigrant detention facility in Bakersfield. Last summer, a COVID-19 outbreak spread to more than half of the detainees and a quarter of the staff.

Now, against the backdrop of the latest and potentially most difficult wave of COVID-19 cases across the state and country, ICE officials are pushing to increase the number of immigrants detained in California.

At the same time, advocates are urging California leaders to stop transfers from state prisons and jails to ICE custody and exercise public health oversight.

“We do not expect ICE to ensure compliance, therefore it is the responsibility of our state and local officials to address this humanitarian crisis,” said Jackie Gonzalez, policy director at Immigrant Defense Advocates.

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