Tacoma, WA — May Day, a worker’s holiday that in recent years has focused on immigrant rights also, kicked off at the Northwest Detention Center this year at noon with about 200 people chanting “No estan solos” (you are not alone) as a van-full of new detainees were led in chains into the immigration prison. The rally marked 56 days of hunger strikes by human rights leaders in the center to protest the record number of deportations under the Obama administration and the conditions under which they are held.
Miguel Armenta Olabarria, a detainee living with HIV, hepatitis C, and cancer, called from inside the immigration prison to address the crowd about the inadequate health care he receives. He also related that ICE had informed him that he would be released this past Tuesday and stated that he doesn’t know why that did not happen.
Ramon Mendoza Pascual and J. Cipriano Rios Alegria, who continue fasting after having been released from solitary confinement this past week, addressed the crowd through audio messages. “Rights are not negotiated; rights are demanded,” Mr. Rios reminded the crowd. Audio and English translation available upon request
Bernarda Pineda of Everett broke down in tears as she told the crowd about her family’s trauma due to immigration practices. With her husband held at the NWDC since just after Christmas following a minor traffic violation, Ms. Pineda reported her car stolen last week. That simple, ordinary act nearly separated her from their four children, when police questioned her immigration status, and handcuffed her in front of the children. Had they detained her, the children would have been forced into foster care. It was only her quick thinking and repeated pleas that secured her release.
The rally ended with a caravan to the Seattle May Day March and Rally
Photos of the rally that you are free to use are at https://www.facebook.com/Not1MoreTacoma/photos_stream
Tacoma, WA — This Thursday, from 12 – 1 p.m., a crowd will rally outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma in support of the peaceful protesters held inside. May 1st will mark 56 days since detainees began a series of hunger strikes in protest of their conditions and of the record levels of deportations under President Obama. Ramon Mendoza Pascual and J. Cipriano Rios Alegria, who continue fasting after having been released from solitary confinement this past week, will address the crowd through audio messages. Audio will be made available to media.
The rally will also highlight the family of Bernarda Pineda of Everett, Washington. Ms. Pineda’s husband has been held at the Northwest Detention Center since December 27 2013 following a minor traffic violation, leaving Ms. Pineda to care for the couple’s four children on her own. A phone call she made last week to local police to report her car stolen nearly led to her own detention when police questioned her immigration status, and handcuffed her in front of her four children. Ms. Pineda will speak at the rally about the devastation immigration enforcement has created in her family’s life.
As supporters continue to rally support, new abuses continue to come to light.Miguel Armenta Olabarria, a detainee living with HIV, Hepatitis C, and cancer, remains detained and continues to receive inadequate medical care. Instead of responding to hunger striker demands, which include improved medical care, ICE has continued their retaliation against hunger strikers. This week, upon completion of their solitary confinement sentences (which were imposed for “participating in a group demonstration”), Paulino Ruiz and Juan Negrete Mendoza expected to be returned to the general population at the NWDC. Instead, the men were taken from the facility and transferred to two different prison facilities in Oregon that contract to hold immigrant detainees. The two have re-established contact with their supporters in Washington State and Oregon. The rally on Thursday will highlight these and other stories of continued struggle.
WHAT: Rally in support of immigrants detained at NWDC
WHEN: Thursday May 1st 12PM
WHERE: Northwest Detention Center 1623 E J St, Tacoma
WHO: Immigrant families, supporters and allies
Tacoma, WA – As a result of the widespread attention to their cause, hunger strikers Ramon Mendoza Pascual and J. Cipriano Rios Alegria were released from solitary confinement on April 24th, and have been returned to the general population of the Northwest Detention Center. This release from solitary comes five days before the end of Mr. Rios’s solitary confinement sentence. In recognition of this victory, Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Rios have ended their strict hunger strike, and are now engaging in a partial fast. They continue to reject meals offered by the facility, but have begun drinking milk and eating small amounts of bread. As of yesterday, Mr. Mendoza had been on hunger strike for 44 of the last 49 days. He and Mr. Rios plan to continue their peaceful protest through May 1st, an international day of action that in recent years has been marked by massive immigrant protests in the U.S.
The actions of Mr. Mendoza, Mr. Pascual, and the hundreds of others who engaged in a hunger strike that began in the Tacoma facility on March 7th, have resulted in a national and international spotlight being cast on the harms of detention and deportation at a time when the Obama administration is under fire for its immigration enforcement record. Following his meeting with hunger striker in the Tacoma facility, U.S. Representative Adam Smith has initiated efforts to introduce legislation responsive to hunger striker demands. This morning, Rep. Smith held a phone call with community stakeholders, reinforcing his on-going leadership on this issue and updating callers on his efforts.
The issues the whistle-blowing hunger strikers have brought to light since the strike began 50 days ago include the on-going lack of appropriate medical care; among those who engaged in the hunger strike is Miguel Armenta Olabarria, who has spent over one month in a facility unequipped to meet his medical needs, which include living with HIV, Hepatitis C, and cancer. Strikers have also highlighted the abuses of the $1/day work system, forcing ICE to admit that the agency does not keep track of injuries sustained by those working in the facility. As those detained continued to organize inside for their demands to be met, outside supporters are finalizing plans for a 12 p.m., May 1st rally outside the facility that will end in a caravan to the yearly Seattle rally that afternoon.
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.
What: Press Conference preceding Congressional Briefing
When: 1:10pm Friday, April 18th, 2014
Where: Rayburn 2103, Washington, DC
Who: Catalina Nieto, Detention Watch Network, Ernestina Hernandez who’s husband Manuel was deported from the Joe Corley Detention Center, Marisa Franco, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Maru Mora Villalpando of Latino Advocacy in Seattle, Drm Action Coalition
“My dad is my hero and I’ll do whatever I have to so he can be home again,” explains Melanie Martinez, age 13, when asked why she and her mother came to Washington, DC as part of the on-going presence outside the White House.
Her mother, Ernestina Hernandez, who will speak today, traveled from Houston, TX to the White House after ICE deported her husband, Manuel Martinez, in retaliation for a hunger strike he participated in at the Joe Corley Detention Center where he had been held.
In recent months, such centers have been roiled by efforts (In Tacoma, WA, Eloy, AZ, Conroe, TX) of those inside to expose the mistreatment, subpar conditions, and the cost-cutting by the private companies who run them as part of the campaign to urge the President to stop deportations and expand relief. An additional hunger strike just became public at an El Paso, TX facility. And just yesterday, 19 people were arrested in civil disobedience at the Suffolk detention center in Boston that is currently embroiled in lawsuits stemming from a previous hunger strike by detainees there.
Preceding a 2:00pm Congressional briefing, representatives of the Texas and Washington state hunger strike and those who started an on-going presence at the White House on April 5th will host a press conference with the Detention Watch Network exposing the conditions inside the Detention Centers and urging DHS and ICE to address hunger strikers demands.
After the Press Conference, participants will hold a Congressional staffer briefing on Detention Center policies, conditions, and resistance. More information on the on-going presence outside the White House available at http://bit.ly/whstrike
Tacoma, WA – As supporters looked on, approximately 130 people held at the Northwest Detention Center were taken from the facility this morning as part of its weekly deportation regime. At least five hunger strikers were among those deported, according to an attorney who visited the facility on Sunday.
A hunger strike supporter holding a vigil outside the center observed two buses leaving at 3 a.m. under cover of darkness. Supporters who arrived at dawn to offer witness to the deportations watched six more vehicles, marked “GEO Transport,” (five buses and a van) leaving the center. In what has become a new tactic since the February 24th action that stopped 120 deportations, the buses themselves were used to block supporters from seeing people loaded in chains. Despite these efforts, supporters lined the sidewalk as the buses pulled out, making eye contact with those inside the buses, and chanting, “You are not alone!” and “The struggle continues!” Read more
Tacoma, WA—Five hundred people gathered on April 5th outside of the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in order to call attention and offer support to the ongoing hunger strike inside. Organizers hosted workshops and discussions about the history of the detention center and the conditions detainees currently face, while people rallied, hearing from family members affected by deportation. At one point, hunger strikers called organizers of the event, and they were able to listen to the large crowd cheering them on from outside. Since Saturday, April 5, there have been at least 60 people on hunger strike in the detention center.
One hunger striker, Maria Cecilia Huaya Mara, offered this message to supporters: “I’ve been in the US for forty years. I’ve been in detention for two months. I went on a hunger strike for the first time to stop the deportations because I see all these women here, that have been here so long, being torn from their children. There’s tears every day, there’s so much suffering that it’s basically unbearable. The conditions in here are not fit for dogs, the food is mostly beans all day long, and it’s horrible, so I’m protesting that, and I thank everybody out there for their support.” (audio available upon request) The rally was part of a nation-wide series of actions in over 80 different cities on April 5 to call attention to the high numbers of deportations under the Obama administration. It is predicted that the administration will reach 2 million deportations during the month of April. Outside the NWDC, supporters placed 200 flowers, each flower representing 10,000 people deported. Read more
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As the immigration debate continues, #Not1More enters the discussion from the place that touches people in concrete ways and can offer tangible relief. By collectively challenging unfair deportations and unjust policy through organizing, art, legislation, and action, we aim to reverse criminalization, build migrant power, and create immigration policies based on principles of inclusion.
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