March 29, 2016 – This morning two dozen people, including former immigrant detainees from DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving and their supporters, arrived outside Clinton Campaign Headquarters to demand that presidential candidate Clinton and others running for office speak out publicly to halt the imminent deportations of 159 Bangladeshi migrants who launched the #FreedomGiving hunger strike last year.
Similarly to how the campaign reacted to a protest during the height of the hunger strikes last Fall, Mini Timmaraju met the protest on the street to represent the Clinton campaign, listening to the concerns and saying that it would be ‘taken back.’ Several of the former detainees themselves expressed to the campaign representatives that, with the mass deportation of hundreds of Muslim detainees potentially scheduled for Monday, they are anxiously awaiting what the former Secretary of State will do to prevent their return to violence, repression, and potential death. A letter was also sent to Sen. Sanders who met with a former hunger striker to advocate on their behalf.
Former hunger striker and DRUM member, Jahed Ahmed, said that “I left Bangladesh and traveled across a dozen countries to escape political repression and save my life. Instead, I ended up rotting away in detention for over 10 months. The US government gave the names of many of the detainees to the Bangladeshi government, and they then leaked them to the media. Our asylum cases and hunger strikes have become a political issue for the Bangladeshi government, and now the Obama Administration wants to deport me back to where I will be disappeared, tortured or killed.”
Another detainee and DRUM member, Saiful Islam, highlighted that “we know this problem is widespread. We have seen the Central American refugees, including women and children, be deported back and killed. The same thing will happen to us if these deportations are not stopped.”
Sayma Khan, also a DRUM leader asked “so what is the difference between these two parties? The Republicans threaten to keep immigrants and Muslims out, and the Democrats are already doing it. We came here to ask the Clinton campaign if they support or oppose the current administration’s record of deportations and police of deportation to death.”
The MC of the program, Roksana Mun, Director of Strategies at DRUM stated “while media attention has focused on Trump’s virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric, mass deportation of Muslims is already reality sanctioned by Democratic Party-backed policies for many refugees and migrants. We need leadership to take a clear position against these deadly deportations, and to take concrete action to stop these deportation.”
The impending deportations of hundreds of Muslim immigrants have raised concerns across the country, prompting over 15,000 people to sign online petitions with MPower Change. Mohammad Khan, Campaign Manager, stated “while paying lip service to immigration reform has become a convenient political tool, words must be matched by action. Supporting policies of deporting migrants to imprisonment and death is neither just nor progressive.”
Last Fall asylum-seekers exposed their prolonged detention and discriminatory treatment inside Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers with several waves of hunger strikes that involved over 1,000 people and twelve facilities. Some participants went over twenty days refusing food and only resumed eating after ICE officials sought authorization for tortuous forced feeding and catheterization to break the strikes.
Last week, news broke that 159 of those same men are now scheduled to be deported by April 4th as a result of an agreement formed between the State Department and the Bangladeshi government whose political violence caused the asylum-seekers to cross three continents to flee. Groups nationwide signed onto a petition to halt their state-department brokered deportation. According to reports from detainees, over 500 hundred South Asian migrants have currently been amassed at a detention center in Florence, Arizona in preparation for their mass deportations on Monday, April 4th.
Observers raise grave concerns for the men’s safety and have begun using the hashtag #Deported2Death to highlight the consequence of their potential removals. But they also cite violation of international law and standard asylum protocol for the detainees who also have standing complaints being investigated within DHS and the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
When the hunger strikes began last Fall, supporters rallied at Clinton’s office seeking the candidate and former Secretary of State’s support for the detainees. With their removal now scheduled, they are returning with urgency for her to help to halt the deportation of these asylum-seeking migrants.
Follow #Deported2Death and #Not1More on Twitter.