Nearly 1,000 Women & Men Go on Hunger Strike in Immigration Detention Across the Nation

On November 5, 2015, family members of people in immigration detention and their allies gathered outside of the Adelanto Detention Facility to show their support for the women and men on hunger strike in Adelanto and across the country.  On the morning of Friday, October 30th, at least 20 men began a hunger strike in the West Building at the Adelanto Detention Facility.  Shortly after, 320 men in the West Building joined the hunger strike.  The men are on strike because every person deserves adequate medical care, edible food, and the opportunity to breathe fresh outdoor air each day.  On the morning of Wednesday, November 3rd, 90 other men in the East Building joined, calling for their freedom.

This is the fourth hunger strike to occur in the last three weeks in a U.S. immigration detention facility.  On the morning of October 14th, 54 South Asian asylum seekers from Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan refused food and water at the El Paso detention center (Texas).  CIVIC’s Jan Meslin joined a group of community leaders outside the gates of the detention facility in solidarity.

Five days later, another 14 Indian and Bangladeshi immigrants began a solidarity hunger strike at the Lasalle Detention Center in Louisiana. CIVIC had planned to take a tour of the LaSalle Detention Center that week, but ICE’s Field Office emailed a day after the hunger strike began.  They told us that the tour had been postponed due to “a major operation at the facility.”  Although ICE threw the hunger strikers into solitary confinement, ICE denied the existence of the hunger strike entirely.  After meeting with one of the men on hunger strike at LaSalle, Meslin told Think Progess that the treatment of the people in detention “made me ashamed of my country.”

On October 28th, 27 women at the T. Don Hutto Facility, a facility in Taylor, Texas, ran by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), began a hunger strike.  By the following week, 400 women were refusing food. According to Grassroots Leadership, the women were unanimous about their one and only demand: release.

The over 400 brave men at Adelanto followed.  Despite these nearly 1,000 people who have gone on hunger strike, U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement continues to deny that their detention facilities have a problem.  ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice told the Los Angeles Times that she would not confirm a hunger strike was taking place.  CIVIC’s Christina Fialho responded, “ICE has adopted a head in the sand approach to hunger strikes, saying they just don’t exist.”

The Obama Administration’s immigration incarceration system has failed, despite attempts at reform. Detention facilities across the country are not safe and consistently fail to meet basic minimum standards.  These brave men and women on hunger strike are not only protesting shameful conditions inside detention, but also fighting for one another.  They are inspired by one another.  CIVIC calls on President Obama to listen to the pleas from these women and men and take immediate steps to end the arbitrary and abusive process of detaining immigrants.

CIVIC stands behind the over 400 men on hunger strike at Adelanto and the approximately 500 other brave women and men who have gone on hunger strikes over the last three weeks in immigration detention facilities across the country. We are here to support them, and we want to remind ICE that we are watching for retaliation. 

“We will be back,” chanted the participants in Thursday’s vigil outside the Adelanto Detention Facility, as they walked away from the facility.