4 Indian Men in El Paso enter 4th Week of Hunger Strike 3 men transferred from Otero enter 3rd Week of Hunger Strike

ICE didn’t transfer 2 of them to Aurora, Colorado after all…they abruptly transferred them today to Miami, Florida more than twice as far away. ICE is unable to properly track people in their custody

On Saturday July 27, a day after Senator Wyden (Oregon) met with a group of asylum seekers on hunger strike at the Otero County Processing Center, advocates monitoring the men noted that according to ICE records they had been transferred to another facility. It took a phone call from Senator Wyden to DHS Secretary McAleenan this weekend to determine that the two hunger strikers the Official ICE Online Detainee Locator System (ODLS) showed as transferred to the Denver Contract Detention Facility actually remained in Otero. On Monday morning July 29, when staff from the mens’ attorney’s office went to Otero to verify their location, at 11:30 am, the ODLS still showed the hunger striking asylum seekers were detained in Aurora, Colorado. A half hour later, at noon, the location of these two asylum seekers was changed back to Otero.

But the irregularities don’t stop there. The attorney for the three men was notified that they would be transferred to El Paso Service Processing Center early Tuesday July 30, where they would supposedly stay for two days before being moved to Miami, Florida. But on the afternoon of the 30th attorneys and advocates were told that the men were put on a plane to Miami that morning. It took six hours for facility staff at Otero and ICE officials to tell legal representatives who arrived to see the men that the three who remained on hunger strike were no longer there. Adding to the disturbing sequence of events, well past eight hours after ICE verbally reported the hunger strikers were purportedly put on an airplane to Miami, the ODLS still showed the men located at Otero.

On Tuesday evening July 30, ODLS didn’t specify a facility and provided the number of the Phoenix ICE field office. On Wednesday morning July 31, representatives from the attorney’s office called the number inquiring about the location of the hunger strikers. The ICE field office reported that at 1am, in the early morning of July 31, the men were booked into the infamous Florence Detention Center, where a man died last month. At 9:30am July 31, more than 8 hours after ICE’s reported book in time of 1:00am, ODLS still did not show the men as being held at Florence. The ODLS website states unambiguously “ICE policy requires that its systems be updated within eight hours of the release, removal, or transfer of detainees.” ICE apparently cannot keep track of three men whose lives they say are in danger, so much so that they will require forced medical treatment to keep them alive.

According to the Assistant Field Office Director in El Paso, El Paso is at capacity, without a doctor on site to administer court-ordered involuntary hydration. Except…they already administered it to four men on hunger strike there and as of our last knowledge are currently only administering IV’s to one of those individuals. Furthermore, earlier this year El Paso Service Processing Center’s medical facilities brutally force-fed nine Punjabi men under court orders that remain unsealed to this day. These excuses to make unnecessary and dangerous transfers are just further examples of how ICE violates their own rules in its effort to hide its retaliatory treatment of those in its custody. The contradictions and lies are too numerous to track, and contribute to a very confusing situation, but more importantly one that is dangerous for these men.

According to ICE’s own transfer directive, detained individuals should not be moved out of the area of responsibility, away from their attorneys of record, when there are proceedings pending. A transfer may be warranted when deemed medically necessary. However, ICE detention standards regarding hunger strikes and the hunger strike medical directive both indicate the option of releasing the men to a local hospital for care. ICE detention standards state that involuntary medical treatment is administered “only after the [clinical medical authority] CMA determines the detainee’s life or health is at risk.” To be clear, the justification for court ordered involuntary medical treatment is that the hunger striker’s life is in dire jeopardy. A person whose “life or health is at risk” is clearly not medically fit for a 2,000-mile flight across the country, while restrained in shackles, and moved further away from their attorney. According to ICE’s own policies, they should not have transferred these hunger strikers.

All of these men will stop their hunger strike if released to the freedom that has been unjustly denied them for a year or more. But rather than do the right thing, ICE continues to hold hunger strikers in their custody to supposedly monitor their health and has transferred them so that they can force feed them to keep them alive. ICE has shown itself incapable of monitoring the location of the men. Putting two hunger strikers on a plane to travel over 2,000 miles puts their lives in serious danger.

“We cannot live in detention anymore,” said one of the men. Being held in immigration detention is no way to live. ICE will do whatever it can to keep people alive so they can continue to detain them. And when hunger strikers resist detention by seeking freedom or to be left to die, ICE with allow neither. All of these men want to live in freedom. These asylum seekers have ties to the community, are not flight risks, and pose no threat to the U.S. ICE can and should release the men immediately.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2019 updated July 31
Contacts:
avid[at]chihuahuan.org