More than 110 Asylum-seekers on Hunger Strike Across Three Facilities
After Months in Indefinite Detention
To: ICE Director Sarah Saldaña
I am writing in support of immigrant detainees on hunger strike in multiple ICE facilities around the U.S. Instead of punishment and retaliation, ICE should immediately release them and investigate the conditions that caused their whistleblowing activity.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, more than 100 men fleeing political violence and danger in their home countries who have been in detention for up to two years announced their rejection of meals and demand for their freedom.
One letter from a hunger striker from Bangladesh pleads, “Whenever I calling to my family they saying ‘we are always thinking of you then they starting to cry… I spent many months to come America for ask in this country help… but for my bad luck I loose everything… Please understanding my suffering words from your kind heart.”
In multiple cases, detainees continue to be held despite either passing their credible fear for asylum or their consulates refusing to issue their travel documents for removal.
Fahd Ahmed, director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) in New York and a primary supporter of the strikers, explains, “ICE is keeping these people in indefinite detention when they should be released. They came to this country seeking safety and instead have been placed behind bars to fill a detention bed quota for years at a time.”
Shahidul Islam, one of the hunger strikers in Theo Lacy Facility escaped Bangladesh after people affiliated with the ruling Awawi League threatened him and his father at gunpoint. The incident caused Shahidul’s father to have a fatal stroke on the spot. Before the confrontation, Shahidul had been arrested multiple times for his participation in the Bangladesh National Party, a mainstream opposition party in his home country.
At a moment when many people in the US will be gathering with their families and loved ones over meals, these detainees will be on hunger strike demanding to be united with their families and communities here.
The detainees in Theo Lacey, Otay, and Etowah Detention Centers issued the following demands:
1. End to all detentions and deportations
2. End to the ICE detention bed quotas
3. End to indefinite detention: Release on Parole or Supervision for all asylum seekers held for more than 6 months
4. Improved conditions in detention (discipline, food, clothing, access to phones, medical access)
Mahbubur, an asylum-seeker held in Etowah, Alabama, explains that some detainees have attempted suicide because of their treatment in custody and out of fear of being returned to persecution, “Not only in Alabama, many Bangladeshis are also passing miserable days in other detention centers across America. They came to the United States with a hope to get asylum, but as their asylum applications have been denied and they are under order of deportation, in that case if they are deported to Bangladesh the present government will persecute them accusing them of creating unrest or vandalism by bringing false charges against them. Many of us even attempted to commit suicide for fearing of the government retribution if deported. We appeal to the Department of Homeland Security and the government of the United Stated of America to consider our case on humanitarian ground and free us from this miserable detention. We want to live a honorable life and we would like to inform our families back home that we are in good condition in America.”