ICE & GEO Deny Legal & Community Visits to Over 20 Hunger Strikers at Adelanto

On behalf of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU of SoCal) sent a letter to ICE this morning about the unlawful denial of access to hunger strikers.

On November 19, 2015, Jacqueline Dan (an attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA) and her legal assistants were informed by GEO staff that the Adelanto hunger strikers were “on a list” and that ICE approval was required before those individuals would be granted legal or non-legal visits.  No legal ground was offered for the denial.  Later that morning, Ms. Dan and CIVIC’s co-executive director Christina Fialho received a message from ICE, stating that clearance was denied. Again, ICE failed to disclose a purported basis for the denial of attorney access to detainees.

Two days earlier, Ms. Fialho, also an attorney, requested in writing clearance for certain non-attorneys to accompany and assist Ms. Dan with an upcoming legal visit scheduled for November 19, 2015.  The request identified by name each of the non-attorneys and detainees and complied with the standard format and practice for requesting access.  The list of detainees included some of the hunger strikers.

“The denial of access by ICE violates the hunger strikers’ First Amendment and Due Process rights to protest their prolonged detentions and the conditions at the Adelanto Detention Facility, violates their right to confer with prospective counsel, interferes with the practice of law, and improperly burdens public interest organizations,” states the ACLU of SoCal letter. 

The denial of access represents an ongoing and troubling pattern of retaliation, and raises real concerns about mistreatment of people in immigration detention at this infamously abusive for-profit facility. On other occasions, GEO and ICE have arbitrarily and without valid grounds denied access to attorneys and visitor volunteers associated with CIVIC in retaliation for peaceful protest activities and public statements protected by the First Amendment. CIVIC with pro bono representation from the ACLU of SoCal and Sidley Austin LLP raised those concerns in a letter dated August 24, 2015, which to this day neither GEO nor ICE has responded to or in any way denied.

“Both ICE and GEO Group are depriving the hunger strikers of access to counsel and community support in unlawful retaliation for shining a light on their inhumane confinement at the Adelanto Detention Facility,” said Christina Fialho, attorney and co-executive director of CIVIC.

If the organizations do not receive a satisfactory response from ICE by Wednesday, November 25, 2015, the group intends to take prompt legal action in federal court to halt these unlawful practices.

NATIONAL JUSTICE-BUILDING CONFERENCE CALL

LEARN WHAT YOU CAN DO!

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19TH at 3:00 – 4:15 p.m. (Eastern)
CENTRAL AMERICAN MOTHERS & CHILDREN IN & OUT OF DETENTION

Join the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee to hear the highlights of our new mental health report documenting the poor care women and children are receiving while in detention. Learn how you can help these asylum-seekers before and after they are released as they create new lives for themselves here in the United States. The call will cover the latest advocacy updates and hear about service needs from the perspective of experienced local service providers.

Guest speakers include:
Rachel Freed, VP, and Chief Program Officer, UUSC
Amber Moulton, Researcher, UUSC

Jonathon Ryan, Executive Director of Raices (San Antonio, TX)
 
Email Jan Meslin at JMeslin@endisolation.org for the conference call information.

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.