Hunger strikes erupted in fall 2015 at a number of for-profit immigration detention facilities, protesting long detentions, inadequate health care, staff abuses and living conditions.
The protests included facilities in California, Texas and Louisiana.
More than 300 men stopped eating meals at the Adelanto detention center in California, reported the Los Angeles Times. The Adelanto facility is run by GEO Group, a for-profit private contractor based in Florida. The hunger strike ended in November.
Adelanto detainees were protesting long detentions, unacceptable level of medical care and physical abuse by GEO staff, including a death and a miscarriage, World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) reported in November. Homeland Security officials stated the pneumonia death of Mexican immigrant Fernando Dominguez was because he “received an unacceptable level of medical care.”
El Salvador immigrant Raul Morales-Ramos died in Adelanto from an undiagnosed intestinal cancer after four years of detention. Ramos had complained numerous times to medical staff about his worsening condition, his family attorney told the website.
Hunger strikers at Adelanto have demanded: better medical care, a grievance counselor who does not work for GEO Group, dental care, better food instead of “slices of cold turkey” and to be treated with respect.
At the El Paso, Texas detention center, 54 South Asian men refused meals; five days later 14 South Asian men at the LaSalle Detention Center in Louisiana did the same. At the Corrections Corporation of America’s T. Don Hutto Facility in Austin, Texas, 27 women mostly from Central America, demanded an end to their mistreatment and immediate release.
“The hunger strikes are in response to Obama administration’s inhumane anti-immigrant policies,” WSWS reporter Kevin Martinez wrote. “More than 2 million men, women and children have been deported during the last seven years.”
Forced deportations are having deadly consequences for immigrant and asylum seekers being dumped into their countries of origin, WSWS noted. Since January 2014, at least 83 deportees have been killed since their return to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the story said.
Nine current and former detainees at the Aurora Detention Center in Colorado sued GEO Group for violating the state’s minimum wage law and violating the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act, which forbids forced labor.
Adelanto hunger striker Zakir Hosain could not pay the $25,000 bond set by an immigration judge, the LA Times reported. Hosain told reporter Kate Linthicum, “Where can we get this kind of money? We are not criminals. We just want protection.”
“The hunger strikes are also in response to President Obama’s inhumane anti-immigrant policies”
Asylum-seekers are being kept in detention for long periods because immigration officials are under pressure to fill tens of thousand of detention beds per a 2009 congressional mandate, said Victoria Mena, an associate with the Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement who has been working with the hunger strikers in Adelanto.