Tacoma, WA – Yesterday the ACLU of Washington and Columbia Legal Services filed a temporary restraining order and an injunction on behalf of those being held in solitary confinement in retaliation for engaging in a hunger strike. “Rather than respond to the concerns expressed by detainees,” the motion says, “United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) threw individual hunger strikers into solitary confinement after falsely promising them that they would meet to talk about the detainees’ concerns. ICE’s arbitrary, retaliatory actions continue to violate the First Amendment rights of the Plaintiffs and other detainees who remain in segregation.” They are seeking an immediate release from solitary confinement and a prohibition of “any further retaliation against detainees engaging in protected speech.”
The lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Andres Ramirez-Martinez, Manuel Uriostegui, and Ericson Gonzales but relief is sought on behalf of all who are held in solitary for engaging in protected free speech, including engaging in a hunger strike. ICE has continued to place those on hunger strike in solitary confinement since the March 27th incident cited in the motion. Others in isolation include Jesus Gaspar Navarro who was removed from medical isolation to solitary immediately after ending a 25-day hunger strike; Ramon Mendoza Pascual who was just “convicted” of charges stemming from the fast in a hearing in which one ICE officer served as translator, witness and adjudicator; and Army Vet Hassall Moses, who is charged with inciting a work stoppage. Work is compensated at $1 per day and ICE and Geo, the owner/operator of the NWDC, allege that the work is voluntary.
The hearing on the temporary restraining order is set for 9:30 am on Friday April 4 at the Federal Court in Tacoma. The petitions cite case law that all people in the U.S. are entitled to freedom of speech. We refer you to the ACLU for details about the legal matters.
The facts as outlined in the complaint are as we reported earlier this week. Mr. Uriostegui says in his sworn statement, “On Thursday, March 27, 2014, several corrections officers entered the F-3 unit while many of us were on hunger strike. They told another detainee to come with them for a meeting with an assistant warden. The detainee left with the officers.”
Then the officers returned. Mr Uriostegui continues, “Many of the remaining hunger striking detainees in the unit asked the officers if they too could join the meeting because they had their own reasons for joining the hunger strike and wanted to have the same opportunity to convey those reasons as the detainees who were selected to attend the meeting. A corrections officer agreed and then started to identify detainees who would also be allowed to attend the meeting.” Mr. Uriostegui was among those who asked to speak with the assistant warden.
Mr. Uriostegui was tricked. “As soon as we were outside of the F-3 unit, I was handcuffed me and placed in administrative segregation where I am locked in an isolation cell for 23 hours a day. My cell has a bed, sink, and toilet and is not very big. . . I am also only allowed to shower three days a week and cannot participate in programming. I was not told why I was placed in administrative segregation, or if or when I would be released from segregation.”
Eventually all three were given an administrative detention order without the required supporting evidence that charged them with being a “security risk” to themselves or the facility. The forms for all three state that they were identified by the staff as intimidating others to engage in the hunger strike. Yet of the 20 who went with the ICE officers on March 27, most were not singled out by ICE agents as troublemakers, but rather asked to participate in the “meeting.” All three deny under oath that they intimidated others. Mr. Ramirez-Martinez was a food porter in his unit and he continued to serve meals even while he was fasting.