[Pnews] Dozens of Mothers Stage Hunger Strike at Immigrant Detention Center in Texas

Prisoner News 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 
is freed."

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 
detain us."

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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