[Pnews] Immigrant mothers held in private detention facility in Texas threaten to renew hunger strike

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Apr 10 17:44:17 EDT 2015

  Immigrant mothers held in private detention facility in Texas threaten
  to renew hunger strike


Mothers held at an immigrant family detention center in Karnes City, 
Texas who went on a hunger strike last week are threatening to renew 
their protest next week unless they and their children are released 

Dozens of women, mostly migrants from Central America seeking asylum in 
the U.S., launched a five-day hunger strike on March 31 to draw 
attention to their desperate situation and their children's 
deteriorating health. Nearly 80 mothers participated at first, but that 
number fell to about 20 by the end of the strike on April 4 as women 
experienced threats from guards and a few were even confined to an unlit 
room with their children.

"We deserve to be treated with some dignity and that our rights to the 
immigration process be respected," they said in a letter 
released March 31 and signed by 78 women 
Expressing concerns about their children's well-being and pleading for 
their release, they added, "We know that any mother would do what we are 
doing for their children."

Many of the mothers have been held in detention for months despite 
passing "credible fear" interviews, which is the first step to receiving 
asylum and makes them eligible to be released as their cases are 
processed. In response to the surge in children and families arriving 
from Central America last summer, the Department of Homeland Security 
(DHS) instituted a blanket policy 
to detain mothers and children seeking asylum as a deterrent to other 
migrants. A federal district judge struck down that policy 
in February, but officials have continued to detain many families 
eligible for release by citing other factors or posting excessively high 

Individual women have shared their experiences at Karnes in letters 
posted to the website of the End Family Detention 
<http://endfamilydetention.com/> advocacy network. One woman who has 
been held there since the facility was converted into a family detention 
center last August wrote 
<http://endfamilydetention.com/mother-and-daughter/> that her daughter 
wasn't eating and was losing weight. She was also worried about 
unsuitable drinking water at the center, which is located in an area 
where thousands of oil and gas wells 
<http://eagleford.publicintegrity.org/> have been drilled, but didn't 
have enough money to buy water from the store. Colorlines reported 
the women are paid $3 a day to work at the facility -- the price of a 
single bottle of water.

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokespeople have denied 
being aware of a hunger strike 
at the center. However, advocates in contact with the detainees reported 
that the women experienced retaliation 
from guards and ICE officials in response to the protest. Three women 
and their children were even locked in an unlit room in the medical 
infirmary on the first day of the strike. Mothers were also threatened 
with separation from their children and with deportations. Such threats 
are routinely made in the facility in response to issues like children's 
misbehavior but increased during the strike, according to Cristina 
Parker with Grassroots Leadership <http://grassrootsleadership>, a 
nonprofit that advocates for the abolition of private prisons.

The Karnes facility is managed by Florida-based GEO Group, the 
second-largest private prison company in the country. In addition to 
managing private prisons, GEO Group operates several immigrant detention 
facilities, where there have been accusations of abuse and mistreatment. 
Immigrants at Karnes have previously reported sexual abuse 
by guards, although a federal investigation into the matter ultimately 
found no evidence of it.

A series of strikes 
involving hundreds of detainees has rocked GEO Group's immigrant 
detention center in Tacoma, Washington over the past year. Detainees 
there demanded better food, medical care, and pay for their work, and 
for the end of deportations. And earlier this week, an immigrant 
detainee died 
in GEO Group's Adelanto facility in Palmdale, California following 
alleged medical neglect.

Investigators from DHS' Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties are 
looking into recent reports 
that women at Karnes were confined in dark rooms as retaliation for the 
strike. Mohammad Abdollahi with the immigrant support and advocacy 
organization RAICES <http://www.raicestexas.org/> in Texas told Facing 
South the women were scheduled to talk with investigators.

RAICES has been working to build momentum around one family's case: that 
of Delmi Cruz and her 11-year old son, Alexis. The Cruzes have been 
detained at Karnes for seven months and were one of three families put 
in isolation during the strike. Volunteers working on the family's case 
say that Alexis has not been the same since. Delmi and Alexis were 
detained at Karnes in September after Delmi, who had been living in the 
U.S. for a few years with another child who is a U.S. citizen, went back 
to Central America to get her son because she feared he would be 
recruited into gangs there.

While Delmi and Alexis have both passed "credible fear" interviews, 
Delmi's record of a previous deportation makes her ineligible for bond. 
The only way for them to be released is for ICE to approve her request 
of being released on parole. The RAICES campaign on Delmi and Alexis' 
behalf calls on supporters to contact ICE Director Sarah Saldana to ask 
her to sign their release. The petition 
<http://www.raicestexas.org/pages/freedelmi> addressed to Saldana reads 
in part:

    I ask that you, as Director of ICE, as a Latina and as a mother
    yourself, take action to make sure that Delmi Cruz and her son are
    released from detention. This deterrence policy by the Obama
    Administration is only bringing harm to families who have no choice
    but to flee extreme violence and seek refuge, here in the United States.

Advocates hope that winning Delmi and Alexis' release would spur the 
release of other families held at Karnes.


By Allie Yee <http://www.southernstudies.org/users/allie-yee> on April 
10, 2015 12:04 PMInput format 

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