December 13, 2019
Force-feeding in El Paso Processing Center/Petition
Among the stories (there are too many!) we try to keep up with here at the Dispatch is the situation of asylum seekers and other detainees who are protesting their conditions through hunger strikes. Freedom for Immigrants has documented 1,600 cases of people protesting their conditions through hunger strikes at 20 different facilities since 2015. Over the last year there has been an increase in hunger strikes and other forms of protest from within facilities, as detention times continue to increase, humanitarian parole is routinely denied for people seeking asylum, even after they have completed a credible fear interview, and conditions overall decline in these overcrowded and under-resourced facilities (under-resourced as a cost saving/profit generating measure, not lack of budget support).
One of the fights people face in protesting their condition through hunger strikes is the desire of their captors to force feed them - a practice considered torture. As noted in the release below, force feeding and forced hydration involves 5- 6 men holding a person down, and in the case of force feeding, literally jamming a tube down their throat. This is happening now to detainees protesting their captivity at the El Paso Processing Center. Forced hydration is being done to five men in Jena, Louisiana. Both facilities are privately operated.
From the Freedom for Immigrants press release:
ICE agents are force-hydrating at least five asylum seekers from India detained at Jena-LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana and force-feeding three men at the El Paso Processing Center in El Paso, Texas. The eight men have been on prolonged hunger strike, some nearing two months without eating.
One of the three south Asian men currently in the El Paso facility was recently transferred by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from Louisiana where he began his hunger strike. All three men detained in El Paso, including one man who has been detained for nearly three years, are currently being force-fed via naso-gastric tubes.
The five men in Louisiana are being subjected to forced hydration, which is carried out by a team of five to six people who hold the person down while an IV is administered. Local advocates say forced-hydration began on Nov. 18 and that the men are expected to face force-feeding by naso-gastric tube any day.
Force-feeding has been denounced as torture by the United Nations, Physicians for Human Rights, the American Medical Association, and the World Medical Association. In the case of all men force-fed this year at El Paso, the size of the feeding tubes used is nearly twice the size of the tubes denounced internationally that were used in Guantanamo. Some of the men hunger striking were deported without a strict re-feeding protocol, a process which according to Physicians for Human Rights can lead to death.
If you are a medical professional, you can sign onto a petition demanding an end to force feeding in ICE facilities @endforcefeedingnow/demand-an-end-to-force-feeding-in-ice-detention-centers-6ab91f469be0">here.
New Report on Conditions in Florida Detention Sites
The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report this week, Prison by Any Other Name, on conditions in four facilities in southern Florida: Krome Service Processing Center (Krome), owned by ICE; Broward Transitional Center (Broward), operated by GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based for-profit prison corporation; and two county jails, Glades County Detention Center (Glades) and Monroe County Detention Center (Monroe). As of April of this year, Florida detained 2,000 non-citizens - the sixth largest detainee population in the country (by state).
Like many reports before it, the SPLC report finds conditions to be poor across the board. As the title indicates, the findings are that people are being held in prison-like conditions, despite the fact that their incarceration is not a response to criminal activity. I will just note briefly, that Krome has a problematic history, being the longtime site where many Haitian asylum seekers - like asylum seekers today from Central America - were detained throughout their processing rather than paroled. A brief from the introduction of the report, which you can read in full here.
As the report illustrates, ICE fails to ensure that incarcerated individuals are provided adequate health care or that people with disabilities receive the proper accommodations to participate in basic activities like bathing, sleeping, and getting exercise. Moreover, ICE fails to provide effective interpretation for non-English speakers in the Florida facilities, forcing individuals to gesture to explain symptoms to medical and mental health workers.
“Reasonable accommodations for mobility-impaired people are ignored—for example, individuals are placed in top bunks despite their disabilities,” said Jessica Shulruff Schneider, director of AI Justice’s detention program. “Medical care is also inadequate —chronic medical conditions are not properly treated, with Ibuprofen as a one-size-fits-all treatment for everything from an infected molar to a broken bone.”
Immigrant detention is a system in which noncitizens are incarcerated in prison-like conditions while they wait for an immigration court to decide their cases or for deportation. Conditions are similar to those in prisons even though most detained immigrants have not been charged with a crime.
Next week congress will be making some decisions on funding for the next fiscal year. The two stories above - indeed, almost any story we cover here - indicates that Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol budgets should slashed - not increased. Detention is not the appropriate response to people seeking asylum, and neither is it necessary for most internal removal proceedings. This administration has no interest in changing course - so all we can do is try to force them by cutting budgets for enforcement.
So, here is simple message to send to your congressperson:
- Cut ICE’s budget for detention - minimally to the 34,000 recommended by the House budget committee. (We want it cut to “0” but even the Democrats aren’t ready for that - this is a start).
- Make sure the administration’s ability to re-program funds is severely limited, and
- If a continuing resolution is passed in lieu of a new budget next week - NO NEW MONEY FOR ICE OR CBP!