Tacoma, WA–Hunger strikers, continuing their strike now for more than forty days, have called for a rally outside the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) on May 1st at noon, a historical day of action for immigrant and worker rights. Ramon Mendoza Pascual and J. Cipriano Rios Alegria remain under solitary confinement due to their participation in the strike. Mr. Rios Alegria was taken to a legal visit on Easter Sunday in leg shackles, which remained on throughout his visit. (see attached picture) Nevertheless, he remains positive and hopes to hear the support of people outside the detention center on May 1st. Mr. Mendoza Pascual has now been on hunger strike 43 out of the last 48 days.
An outbreak of chicken pox has spread through the women’s area of the NWDC, alarming the captive women. The women had seen Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and GEO Group guards wearing protective masks in the unit for four days, but were told that the guards were trying to avoid the flu. Only upon preparing for legal visits on Sunday were several women finally told that they were exposed to chicken pox and that there was an outbreak in their unit, and instructed to wear masks when visiting with outside legal representatives. They had not previously been informed of this and were given no access to protective measures or offers of vaccination.
Army veteran Hassall Moses was released from solitary confinement this past week, following widespread outcry at this retaliatory measure. Mr. Moses had been accused of calling for a work stoppage and spent nearly one month in 24-hour lockdown as a result. He has called for people to gather outside the NWDC on May 1st, a national day of immigrant advocacy, and hopes that supporters will not only address issues of detainee treatment like better food and access to medical care but also appropriate compensation for work done by the detainees inside the NWDC, who currently are paid $1 per day of work. He says that “as you rally outside, we’ll do our best to support you from in here.”
Momentum has been growing across the country to support the hunger strikers in the NWDC, as well as to push for an end to deportations and an end to abusive prison labor practices. In Alabama, prisoners have launched a work strike to combat what has become a slave labor system, as well as overcrowding and lack of access to healthcare. Yesterday, three dozen Indian asylum seekers ended a 10-day hunger strike in El Paso, Texas, to protest what has become their six month of detention through ICE with no foreseeable end. The May 1st rally at the NWDC will run from noon to 1pm on May 1st, at which time participants are encouraged to head to Seattle for an annual May Day March and Rally.