Take Action: Hunger strikers in ICE custody seek release
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July 24, 2019
Four men, originally from India, who have been in detention for over a year are in the 16th day of a hunger strike, demanding their release. The men are held at the El Paso Processing Center. Another five men from India launched a hunger strike at the Otero Processing Center, which is now in its 8th day. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are seeking a court order to have the men forcefully fed. Some background:
Four asylum seekers from India who began a hunger strike on July 9 at the Otero County Processing Center (OCPC), are now at the El Paso Service Processing Center (EPSPC) and were told that today the facility will be seeking court orders for involuntary IV and force feeding. These asylum seekers have been held for over a year in a facility that the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General recognizes is problematic due to punitive use of solitary, verbally hostile staff, poor medical services, and lack of sanitation. These men had their hearing in a part of the country that is effectively an asylum free zone, they faced an immigration judge that is known as one of the worst of the region, one that even facility staff claim “everyone is afraid of.”
Verbally berated with ethnic slurs, denied any possibility for release, and not allowed sufficient time to prepare evidence for their cases, these men faced unreasonable obstacles throughout the process. After languishing a year or more in detention with no end in sight, these men were left with no other options to call attention to their prolonged detention and unfair immigration proceedings, and to obtain their freedom.
Four other asylum seekers from India, and one other man from India facing deportation, have begun another hunger strike at OCPC. Now refusing food for seven days, the four asylum seekers began their hunger strike on Tuesday July 16 to raise awareness about their struggle and to insist on their freedom. These men are victims of the same problems: several have been held for over a year, have been berated by staff who used foul language and demeaning ethnic slurs, and they had to pursue their cases in an “asylum free zone” in front of some of the most skeptical immigration judges in the country. No longer willing to remain in what the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights identifies as “torture like” conditions and with no other option to secure their freedom, these men began a hunger strike to seek their freedom.
While ICE frequently asserts in public statements that it “does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers” there are reports that two ICE officers threatened the hunger striking asylum seekers. ICE officers told the men that if they don’t eat “they will go to jail for five years” and that in jail they will be held with criminals, beaten, and raped repeatedly. ICE officers also told the men that they were recording their phone calls and that if they spoke about the hunger strike to family members or outside groups, ICE would arrest those family members and allies in the public and put them in jail. The men were told that if they did not eat they would be subjected to involuntary force feeding.
CREDO has launched a petition supporting their release. You can sign that here.
National Lawyers Guild Release Report on Border
The National Lawyers Guild released a report on human rights violations at the border yesterday. The report is based on interviews conducted as part of an NLG International Committee delegation that visited the border area in March. You can read and/or download the full report here. From the executive summary of key findings:
- President Trump applies a racist perspective to U.S. immigration policy and has ramped up barriers to migration to create a humanitarian crisis at the border;
- The barriers to asylum, including the so-called “metering” system and the “Remain in Mexico” policy, misleadingly named, “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), are illegal and exposes asylum-seekers to life-threatening conditions;
- The governments of the United States and Mexico are neglecting their respective obligations under domestic and international law to respect the human rights of asylum-seekers;
- Anti-immigrant sentiment in Mexico has resulted in harassment and violence towards migrants in Tijuana by Mexican authorities and residents;
- Vulnerable populations, such as unaccompanied children and LGBTQ+ individuals, are especially at risk, and are not being afforded the rights to which they are entitled under international law; and
- The U.S. and Mexican governments have criminalized migrants and those who are aiding them or documenting their plight, using illegal surveillance and other tactics.
The Center for American Progress issues immigration platform
The Center for American Progress released a platform for immigration reform set against a historical overview of immigration policy. The report attempts to find a middle ground between two dominant constructs that, it is argued, are insufficient: The U.S. as a nation of immigrants, and the U.S. as a nation of laws. Setting their proposals against this backdrop, CAP argues for a more humane immigration system that incorporates limited, though in their few, necessary enforcement measures. You can read the full report here. An excerpt from the introduction follows:
This report sets out a framework for immigration policymaking that brings together the two visions of America, with the goal of building a fair, humane, and well-functioning immigration system in which the rule of law is restored. Additionally, it makes the case for why immigration proponents can and should reclaim the rule of law narrative frame from immigration restrictionists who frequently misappropriate the term to drive law and order policies that demonize immigrant communities and communities of color and only worsen the dysfunctionality and cruelty of the current system.
The report begins by laying out what the rule of law is, how it has been distorted by opponents of immigration, and the degree to which the current immigration system makes a mockery of American history and ideals—of an America that is both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. The report then outlines the emergence over a period of years of the extralegal immigration system that exists today. Next, it illustrates that under this broken system, immigration policy has fluctuated between two poles: on the one hand, relying increasingly upon administrative discretion alone to save the system from itself, and on the other, relying on maximum enforcement of “the laws on the books without apology,” as former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Acting Director Thomas Homan said.