Reports of Solitary Confinement and Medical Abuse Raise Concerns for Detainees’ Safety in Custody
November 30, 2015
Today three additional centers join what has become known as the #freedomgiving hunger strikes. On the eve of Thanksgiving, 110+ men who came to the US seeking safety but instead have been held in detention for seven months to up to two years refused their meals and demanded their freedom at the Etowah, Theo Lacy, and Otay detention centers.
While Immigration authorities usually deny or delay acknowledgement of detainee organizing activity, ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice told the press on its first day, “…The agency is closely monitoring the welfare of 35 residents housed at the Theo Lacy immigration detention facility.”
Despite Kice’s statement, officials at the centers responded by placing several participants in Etowah and Theo Lacy in solitary confinement and verbally threatening others. Supporters outside held rallies and drove calls to ICE Field Director Brian Acuña in charge of the region that includes Etowah and ICE Field Director Gabriel Valdez who oversees Theo Lacy demanding the isolated detainees be returned to general population and released.
However, as calls poured in, detainees called with disturbing reports of medical abuse at the Etowah center where a support rally will take place this afternoon. One of the strikers reports being forcefully and painfully catheterized while being verbally abused and insulted repeatedly and other incidents are coming to light pending confirmation.
Today, as those strikers face mounting intimidation and repression, they are joined by detainees in three additional centers: 13 at Aurora, CO, 9 in Adelanto, and 9 detainees stated they would be joining eight men who have been striking for the past week at the South Texas Detention Facility.
Fahd Ahmed, Executive Director of DRUM – Desis Rising Up and Moving and a principal support for the strikes, explains, “The reports we’re receiving of ICE’s response cause grave concern for the detainees’ safety and should be cause for their immediate release. People have fled their countries seeking security only to end up rotting away in ICE detention centers for months and years. We are witnessing a crisis of the country’s immigration detention system. It is a failure of the system, and it is a failure of humanity.”
Advocates are raising questions about the role of the detention bed quota in the asylum-seekers’ captivity. They point toward the fact that most detainees have already had their credible fear findings, passed the 6 month mark in custody, or come from places where the government has failed to obtain travel documents and is unable to actually remove them leaving them in indefinite detention as a result.
With the addition of today’s facilities, more than 1,000 detainees have gone on hunger strike in 10 facilities in the past seven weeks.
“What else needs to happen to release these people?” asks Marisa Franco, director of the #Not1More campaign. “Whistleblowers should receive protection not retaliation but the opposite is happening inside this country’s detention centers.”
A timeline of the recent wave of strikes is below:
- October 14: 54 South Asian detainees from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan detained at the El Paso Processing /Detention Center started a hunger strike at breakfast time #ElPaso54
- October 18th: 14 Detainees from India and Bangladesh launch a hunger strike in Lasalle Detention Center #LaSalle14
- October 28th: 27 women from El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, Brazil and Europe detained in the T.Don Hutto Detention center began a hunger strike, the number soon grew to almost 500 women.. #Hutto27
- October 30th: 20 men predominantly from Central America, started a hunger strike in the West Facility of Adelanto, California, the number soon grew to 300. #Adelanto20
- November 4th: 90 men from the East Facility in Adelanto, California went on hunger strike, threats and retaliation reduced the number to 26 men from Ghana, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. #AdelantoHungerStrike
- November 25th: 48 in Etowah, 37 in Theo Lacy, and 26 in Otay Mesa launch the #freedomgiving hunger strikes at dinner demanding their freedom.
- November 30th: 13 in Aurora, 9 in Adelanto, and 17 in South Texas (8 of whom who had already been striking for seven days) join with the #freedomgiving strike.
Sign to demand the release of hunger striking detainees.
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.
More information can be found at: http://notonemoredeportation.com/free-the-hunger-striking-detainees/