Hunger Strikers Overcome Brutal Retaliation, Persevering into their Second Day

Adelanto, CA – It has now been 31 hours since nine individuals, known as the #Adelanto9, began a hunger strike at the Adelanto Detention Center in California yesterday morning. Within hours of refusing to eat food or drink water, the #Adelanto9 reported that they were drenched with pepper spray, beaten and transferred into a high security area by GEO Group (GEO) guards, the notorious private prison company that operates the facility.

“The retaliation that the #Adelanto9 endured as a result of their hunger strike is a shameful attempt to suppress efforts to expose the shocking realities of immigration detention from those inside,” said Tristan Call of Sureñxs En Acción. “The abusive lengths to which GEO has gone are appalling and endanger the well-being of those on hunger strike.”

The extreme force that the #Adelanto9 faced yesterday tragically affirm longstanding concerns of physical abuse by GEO staff and inadequate medical treatment raised by immigrant rights groups, including Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), Detention Watch Network and Inland Empire-Immigrant Youth Collective, which have continually called for the facility’s closure. Most alarmingly, Adelanto became the deadliest detention center in 2017, with three deaths in three months. To date, ICE has failed to respond to demands that the findings of the investigations into these deaths be made public.

“ICE and its contractors like GEO Group operate with impunity in California. Hunger strikers and other immigrants in detention face physical assault on almost a daily basis in California. CIVIC’s investigation into sexual and physical assault found that out of the 4,500 complaints lodged with Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in California, OIG investigated less than 1 percent. If the federal government won’t regulate its detention facilities, it is time for the state of California to provide its own oversight over immigration detention facilities,” said Christina Fialho, a California-based attorney and co-executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).

“The hunger strike stresses what advocates have long been saying — ICE and GEO are unfit to take care of people in their custody,” said Mitzie Perez of Inland Empire-Immigrant Youth Collective. “Adelanto must be shut down.”

The #Adelanto9 follow a 2015 hunger strike at Adelanto and a massive hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington earlier this year, a facility that is also run by GEO. The growing pattern of hunger strikes within immigration detention centers paints a grim picture of life inside detention as people detained risk their health and retaliation to expose egregious conditions and system-wide abuses.

“The Adelanto Detention Center exemplifies the systemic abuses found throughout detention centers nationwide, ” said Danny Cendejas, organizing director of Detention Watch Network. “We stand in solidarity with the #Adelanto9 as they put their bodies on the line to expose the injustices not just within Adelanto, but system-wide.”

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Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) is the national immigration detention visitation network, which is working to end U.S. immigration detention by monitoring human rights abuses, elevating stories, building community-based alternatives to detention, and advocating for system change. We have been visiting and monitoring the Adelanto Detention Facility since 2012. For more information, visit www.endisolation.org.

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org. Follow @DetentionWatch.

Inland Empire-Immigrant Youth Collective (IE-IYC) is a grassroots undocumented youth-led organization. We are committed to creating a safe space for immigrant youth regardless of legal status, race, gender, sexuality, educational background and other intersections that are crucial to the undocumented identity. We have been supporting regional efforts against the Adelanto Detention Facility since 2013. For more information, visit www.ieiyc.org.

Sureñxs En Acción is a Nashville-based migrant liberation collective organizing against immigrant detention, state violence, and for-profit prisons in the US South and the Global South.