Tacoma, WA – Jose Moreno, newly released hunger strike leader, spoke publicly about conditions inside the Northwest Detention Center and the reasons for the hunger strike. Speaking at a press conference just outside of cement walls that separated him from his family he said, “It’s really sad to see families being separated every day and people are tired of this.”
Mr. Moreno was on one of the vehicles that was turned back in the early morning hours of Feb. 24. He was inspired by the direct action that stopped ICE from deporting 120 people that day to help start the hunger strike. “Many people go from providing for their families to an economic burden due to their incarceration in this detention center. They want the President to deliver on his promise, back when he became President, to reform the system. Because he hasn’t done it, people are taking matters into their own hands.”
The two leaders remaining in isolation recorded messages for those on hunger strike at the Geo-run immigration detention center in Conroe, TX, like the one above [full transcript and English translation here].
Ramon Mendoza Pascual encouraged the Texas human rights strike leaders, “Don’t be afraid, we must keep going, so that we are heard and so that we can be free.” Jesus Gaspar Navarro echoed the encouragement, “May God help you and may God keep you safe, because this is worth doing for our families. Just remember your families and that will give you strength.”
Almost two full weeks into the hunger strike, attorney Sandy Restrepo reported that, in addition to the two men in isolation, there are about 11 still on hunger strike in the Northwest Detention Center. The leadership on the outside has reached out to Congresspeople to support a negotiated settlement to the strike that ICE has answered with threats, intimidation and empty promises.
“It is time to end the suffering here. Our regard for human rights should call us to demand that our friends and neighbors be released from detention while awaiting decisions and that healthful food, fair treatment and fair wages be provided for those held here,” said Ms. Restrepo. “It is time for our officials to step forward.”
Mr. Gaspar Navarro has been separated from his family for a year and half and has never held his two grandchildren, his wife Donna Gaspar said. A construction worker, he has worked on many major projects, including Fort Lewis and schools and firehouses. He was pulled over on his way to work and was the family’s sole provider, supporting a family of seven.
Mr. Mendoza Pascual and his wife of 13 years, Veronica Noriega, have three children. He worked as a carpenter prior to his arrest on suspicion of a DUI, a charge that has been dropped when it was shown he was not driving. Ms. Noriega is now working three jobs to support the family.
Maru Mora Villalpando announced that April 5 immigrant rights activists will join the national call for Obama to stop deportations, Not1More, rallying outside the detention center, starting at noon. There have been two million people deported during the Obama administration, more than during any prior administration. President Obama could expand the deferred action program he created for immigrant youth and suspend deportations immediately.
The rally will feature talks by the Gaspar, Mendoza and Moreno families and the soon to be released Blue Ribbon Panel Report by national undocumented leaders with recommendations to the President for changes to US deportation policy. It will be a celebration of all those locked up inside who participated in the hunger strike. There will be puppets, bands, and banners, in the family friendly event. A march will precede the rally and a 24-hour fast companioning those inside will span the event.
Recorded messages and English transcripts for those on hunger strike at the Geo-run immigration detention center in Conroe, TX are available at http://grassrootsleadership.org/blog/2014/03/second-detainee-strike-shedding-light-private-detention-abuses.
From Maru Villalpandy, with Latino Advocacy, and one of the supporters of the hunger strikers.