[Pnews] Dozens of Mothers Stage Hunger Strike at Immigrant Detention Center in Texas
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 8 10:49:46 EDT 2015
Dozens of Mothers Stage Hunger Strike at Immigrant Detention Center in
'We want freedom for our children. It’s not right to continue to detain us.'
byNadia Prupis, staff writer
April 2, 2015
About 40 women being held at the privately-run Karnes Family Detention
Center in southern Texas launched a hunger strike this week to demand
their release and the release of their families, vowing on Tuesday not
to eat, work, or use the services at the facility until they are freed.
Nearly 80 women being held at the center, many of whom are said to be
asylum seekers from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, signed a
stating that they have all been refused bond despite having established
a credible fear of violence if they are sent back to Central America—a
key factor in the U.S. government's process for screening detained
immigrants to allow them amnesty.
"We deserve to be treated with some dignity and that our rights, to the
immigration process, are respected," the letter reads. "You should know
that this is just the beginning and we will not stop [the hunger strike]
until we achieve our goals. This strike will continue until each of us
The letter also states that many of the children held in the camp are
losing weight and that their "health is deteriorating." Many of the
families have been detained for as long as 10 months.
One woman, 26-year old Honduran mother Kenia Galeano, decried the
center's treatment of the families in a phone interview
with /McClatchy/ on Tuesday. "We’re many mothers, not just me," she
said. "We want freedom for our children. It’s not right to continue to
Galeano, who shares a room with three other mothers and their children,
also said that her two-year-old son has become depressed and lost weight
due to the culturally inappropriate food.
According to the letter, some of the mothers were also left behind in
the detention center, while their children were granted bond. "We have
come to this country, with our children, seeking refugee status and we
are being treated like delinquents," the letter reads. "We are not
delinquents nor do we pose any threat to this country."
"This strike will continue until each of us is freed."
Karnes, which is run by the private corrections company GEO Group, has
come under fire in the past for its treatment
of the children who are detained there, with reports of weight loss and
forced separation from their mothers, but the U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement (ICE) department has denied those allegations.
ICE also claimed it was unaware of any residents actually participating
in the strike, saying in a statement on Wednesday that the agency "fully
respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without
interference, and all detainees, including those in family residential
facilities such as Karnes, are permitted to do so."
It also said it was investigating claims that members of a nonprofit
advocacy group encouraged the women to take part in the hunger strike—a
charge which activists deny.
Cristina Parker, immigration programs director at the Texas-based
immigrant rights group Grassroots Leadership, told
the /Guardian/ on Tuesday, "This is something that has been rippling
through the centre almost since it opened. I don’t believe at all that
they were coached into doing this."
According to Parker, the center is now blocking access to internet and
telephone facilities for all of its detainees, regardless of whether
they are participating in the hunger strike.
At least two women who signed the letter were also placed into isolation
with their children in Karnes's clinic, leading about half of those who
initially pledged to take part in the hunger strike to drop out,
according to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal
Johana De Leon, a legal assistant with the nonprofit, told /McClatchy/
that other mothers were warned they could lose custody of their children
if they participated.
In addition to its mistreatment of children, Karnes has also been
of sexual misconduct by guards and denial of critical medical care for
detainees, among other charges. The Department of Homeland Security
inspector general reported in February that there was no evidence to
support the allegations.
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