Tacoma, WA – As the hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center enters its 20th day, the detained immigrants’ demands have begun gaining legislative traction. With over 70 hunger strikers refusing meals in the Tacoma facility, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, whose 9th Congressional District includes the facility, announced his plans to introduce legislation addressing detention conditions. This announcement follows his March 20th visit to the detention center, during which he met with three hunger strike leaders. An attorney who acted as an interpreter during this meeting confirmed that during the meeting the hunger strikers detailed their reasons for their peaceful protest, and shared their stories of the personal devastation caused by their detention. At least one of the men with whom Rep. Smith visited, Jesus Gaspar Navarro, remains in medical isolation as he continues to refuse meals.
In an interview with the Seattle weekly The Stranger, Representative Smith described conditions in the detention center as “shocking” and “very very tough.” He echoed the hunger strikers’ demands regarding the exorbitant telephone and commissary costs and the subpar food provided by GEO Group, stating, “So I can imagine that the less they pay for the food, the more money they make.” Citing the personal circumstances of the hunger strikers with whom he met, he stated, “These people are being ripped apart from their families. Is that making our community a better place? I don’t think so.”
Jose Moreno, recently release hunger strike leader, responded to the news of Smith’s intervention, stating, “When I started the hunger strike, I had no idea what impact we would have. I just knew that we needed to act to end the abuses in the detention center and end deportations.” Maru Mora Villalpando, immigrant rights activist and hunger strike supporter added, “We welcome Rep. Smith’s statements and actions. We call on ICE and on the President to meet Rep. Smith’s actions, and the actions of the hunger strikers both here and in Texas, with action of their own. The hunger strikers’ demands must be met. The deportations must stop.”
Hunger strike supporters continue their plans for the #2Million2Many National Day of Action on April 5th, which will be marked locally by marches, rallies, and teach-ins at the Northwest Detention Center from noon to 5 p.m. Actions are planned across the country to protest the 2 million deportations the Obama Administration will reach in the month of April and to call for the President to take decisive action to reverse the deportation dragnet.