[Pnews] Immigrant Detainees Accuse US of Using Sleep Deprivation During Hunger Strike
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Dec 22 14:43:43 EST 2015
Immigrant Detainees Accuse US of Using Sleep Deprivation During Hunger
ByAviva Stahl <https://news.vice.com/contributor/aviva-stahl>
December 21, 2015
Dozens of detainees held by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
claim they were subjected to sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and
other forms of retaliation after they went on hunger strike last month
to protest the rejection of their asylum claims and their prolonged
The hunger strikes, which began in late November the night before
eventually spread to at least 10 facilities across the country and
involved more than 100 detainees, according to advocates. As of December
18, the hunger strike was still ongoing at the Krome detention center in
Miami. Women incarcerated at the Yuba County Jail in California also
began refusing food
last Monday in solidarity with the immigrant detainees.
Paromita Shah, the associate director of the National Immigration
Project of the National Lawyers Guild, said some of the hunger strikers
have spent more than two years behind bars waiting for their cases to be
resolved. She said most of the participants were asylum seekers who
passed their "credible fear" screenings — meaning they expressed a fear
of being persecuted or tortured in their home countries, and had their
cases referred to a judge for a full hearing — and were supposed to be
considered for parole.
Almost all of participants claim they were isolated from other
detainees, and others were allegedly placed in solitary confinement. In
two facilities, hunger strikers reported being severely sleep deprived,
with guards waking them up every fifteen minutes. In at least three
facilities, detainees were allegedly prevented from calling outside
supporters to update them about the protest.
ICE alsosuccessfully requested authorization
from a federal judge to force-feed one individual, though the agency
never followed through on the order. Activists also claim that one
hunger striker at the Etowah Detention Center in Alabama was forcibly
catheterized, meaning he had a thin tube inserted into his bladder
through his urethra, ostensibly for medical reasons.
*Related: *These Undocumented Women Are Hunger Striking Against Their
Detention in Texas
ICE adamantly denied retaliating against the hunger strikers.
"US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes very seriously the
health, safety, and welfare of those in our care and we continue to
monitor the situation," ICE spokesman Nestor Yglesias said in an email
to VICE News, adding that the facilities where the hunger strikers are
being held are staffed with "medical and mental health care providers
who monitor, diagnose and treat residents."
But this isn't the first time that ICE has been accused of using
draconian measures to crack down on hunger strikers. During a hunger
strike last year at the Northwest Detention Center in Washington state,
detainees reported being placed in solitary confinement, prompting the
ACLU of Washington to file a lawsuit
on their behalf.
Alina Das, co-director of the immigrant rights clinic the New York
University School of Law, said hunger strikers are exercising their
First Amendment rights. "Using tactics like solitary confinement and
force-feeding to end hunger strikes of this nature would violate
immigrants' constitutional rights, as well as international law," she said.
Federal judges and circuit courts have consistently ruled, however, that
force-feedings are permissible, and determined that prisoners do not
have the right to engage in hunger strikes, even if they are refusing to
eat for political or religious reasons.
Many of the detainees involved in the latest hunger strike are
Bangladeshis who support the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), which the
Department of Homeland Security recently categorized as a "Tier III"
terrorist organization, a label that the US government says
is "relatively broad and may apply to individuals and activities not
commonly thought to be associated with terrorism."
Immigrant rights advocates have vehemently contested
the move, arguing that BNP members face "extra-judicial arrests and
killings" by the country's ruling government, and that they are
"particularly vulnerable to persecution and may be in dire need of
asylum." The terrorist classification means BNP supporters are regularly
denied bond while their asylum applications are processed.
Fahd Ahmed, executive director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), a
New York-based organization that advocates on behalf of South Asian
immigrants, told VICE News that ICE tries to limit communication between
hunger strikers and their supporters in order to minimize the impact of
*Related: *How US Immigrant Detention Facilities Get Away with Being
"We know that some of these folks have gone on hunger strike before, but
nobody in the world knew about it," he said. "That's very intentional
about the way that our detention centers and prison systems are set up,
that people are completely isolated."
Ahmed also claimed that hunger strikers at the Theo Lacey Facility in
California only agreed to start eating after they met with an ICE
official who promised that they would be released within two weeks. ICE
has denied negotiating with detainees to end their hunger strikes.
Despite ICE's alleged efforts to thwart communication between hunger
strikers and the outside world, the protest has attracted significant
media attention and prompted two of the main Democratic presidential
candidates to weigh in.
'Using tactics like solitary confinement and force-feeding to end
hunger strikes of this nature would violate immigrants'
constitutional rights, as well as international law.'
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders met with a group of undocumented
immigrants last week, including one former hunger striker who has since
been released. Sanders promised to call ICE to inquire about hunger
strikers who were facing imminent deportation, and to visit the Etowah
Detention Center in Alabama once his schedule allows.
Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley met with former hunger strikers
and their family members on Tuesday morning, and called
for an end to the "the shameful practice of mass immigrant detention
centers in our country."
Activists also protested outside of Hillary Clinton's campaign
headquarters last week, demanding that she support the hunger strikers.
Clinton's address to the National Immigrant Integration Conference on
Monday was interrupted three times by supporters of the hunger strikers,
who carried signs that said "Do you stand with us?" and "People are
starving for their freedom."
On Wednesday, despite the attention from the Democratic presidential
candidates, ICE deported
Md. Tarek Ahmed, one of the hunger strike leaders. Supporters believe he
faces imminent danger in Bangladesh.
"The candidates who say they support us should use their position to
pressure ICE to halt deportations and release asylum seekers," Mohammed
Aminul Islam, a former detainee who met with O'Malley, said in a
statement to reporters. "Some of us will be deported and dead by the
time the candidates act on their promises."
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