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