[Pnews] Immigrant Detainees Accuse US of Using Sleep Deprivation During Hunger Strike

Prisoner News 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 
the protest.

*Related: *How US Immigrant Detention Facilities Get Away with Being 
Complete Hellholes 

"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."

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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