On the afternoon of July 23, 2019, one of five Indian men on hunger strike at the Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) was abruptly transferred to the El Paso Service Processing Center (EPSPC). This morning, a search on ICE’s online locator yielded no results, indicating he was no longer in ICE custody. Advocates feared this man was in the process of being deported, and hidden from supporters in an attempt to further isolate him. Sadly, we just received word that he was put on a plane early this morning and deported. ICE speedily deported someone who has not eaten in more than a week. ICE regularly advises detained individuals weeks in advance of their expected removal, yet this man was given no forewarning. Despite ICE’s repeat boilerplate claims that “it does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers,” the hasty and unannounced removal of a man who has not eaten for more than a week is clear evidence of ICE retaliation against a hunger striker.
This morning we called on members of Congress to swiftly find this man and halt any deportation underway. But ICE moved so quickly, there was insufficient time for anyone to intervene. After more than a week without food, this man’s very weak state and poor health are of tremendous concern. He was in no shape to be sent on an international flight. Retaliating against a hunger striker, ICE put this man’s health in serious risk.
Through letters to multiple organizations over the past few months, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, this man reached out for help with his asylum case. Like many in detention, he had to represent himself, navigating complex laws and paperwork in a second language. He did not have a chance. On Sunday he pleaded with advocates to help save his life, as he fears being killed upon return to India. Now, ICE sent him back to the very country he fears, simply for taking non-violent action to seek freedom from detention to pursue his case.
This man was part of a second group of Indian asylum seekers who are on hunger strike for their freedom. A first group of men who have not eaten in more than 15 days was moved to EPSPC last week. As with the other Indian men on hunger strike at OCPC and EPSPC, the man whose deportation is underway experienced due process violations, prolonged detention, and discrimination by immigration judges, ICE officials, and facility staff. All of the Indian asylum seekers on hunger strike are seeking to be free. But their actions also call attention to the inhumane and unjust imprisonment of immigrants in U.S. detention facilities. ICE must be abolished now.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 24, 2019