Indian Asylum Seekers Sustain Hunger Strikes at El Paso and Krome Facilities

Indian Asylum Seekers Sustain Hunger Strikes at El Paso and Krome Facilities

Day 38 in El Paso … ICE seeking force-feeding orders this week | Day 31 in Krome…all three men are in the hospital

Seven asylum seekers from India are on hunger strike at ICE detention facilities in two states. There are two groups of asylum seekers, one detained at the El Paso Service Processing Center in El Paso, Texas and the other detained at the Krome North Service Processing Center near Miami, Florida. The group in El Paso has not eaten for 38 days, and the group in Krome for 31 days. Both immigration prisons have a history of force-feeding hunger strikers. At El Paso earlier this year, a group of 9 Sikh asylum seekers who were on hunger strike were brutally force-fed, prompting international outrage and an investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. Results of that investigation still have not been made public. Now these two groups of asylum seekers face the same inhumane treatment by ICE.

All four men detained in El Paso were told that doctors would be seeking court orders this week to begin force-feeding. Currently they are subjected to painful intravenous (IV) hydration, and one is being coerced to drink more water than he can handle. One man was being hydrated by force, which is carried out by a team of 5-6 people who hold the person down while an IV is administered against the person’s will. Now the men are all too weak to resist.

“Two of the men on hunger strike in El Paso weigh about 100 pounds. The pain is constant, they can’t sleep, and they are physically exhausted. But they are committed to gaining their freedom. What does it take for ICE to recognize that they are intentionally harming these men for no reason? The simple and humane response to this non-violent protest is to release these men to their sponsors and supporters. We will care for them,” said Margaret Brown Vega, AVID volunteer.

Also in preparation for involuntary medical treatment, ICE transferred the second group of three asylum seekers to the Krome detention facility, far away from community support and their attorney. This kind of days-long cross-country transfer is incredibly dangerous for individuals who are on hunger strike.

In a disturbing phone call on Monday with one of the men in Krome, the men’s legal team learned that one man was hospitalized since Wednesday and the other two were being taken at that moment on stretchers to the hospital. This was the first contact the men had with their attorneys’ office since being transferred from the Otero County Processing Center two weeks ago. “He said he was in the hospital for around four days last week for dehydration and lack of nutrients, but he refused treatment and was returned to the detention center. He weighs between approximately 99-101 pounds”, said Rosa de Jong, paralegal at Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center.

In the context of recent ICE raids in Mississippi, and the trauma caused to immigrant families, an ICE official said “We are not a humanitarian agency, but we are trying our best to ameliorate the humanitarian concerns.” Whether it is comes to separating families, or depriving people of their freedom for years, as one of several facets of a multipronged enforcement through deterrence policy, ICE cares little for humanitarian concerns. ICE is deciding to prolong the suffering of these asylum seekers. Release on humanitarian grounds is critical, or these men will die simply to gain their freedom. They have already taken tremendous risk to their health, damaging their bodies, to gain a basic right that most people take for granted. ICE can end this suffering, and stop their cruel retaliation against freedom-seekers.

Take Immediate Action: Call for the immediate release of these asylum seekers (sign the petition asking for their release).

Background on South Asian Migrants: Over 34,000 South Asian migrants were apprehended at U.S. borders since 2008.  The number of Indian migrants at the border tripled from almost 3,000 in 2017 to nearly 9,000 in 2018. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and partners tracked a pattern of abuse towards South Asian migrants in detention since 2014 that drove many to hunger strike including: inadequate or non-existent language access, denial of religious accommodations, use of solitary confinement as a form of retaliation, gross medical neglect, and high bond amounts resulting in prolonged detention.

Larger Movement Call to Action:   The detention system is leading to the deaths and torture of thousands of people. At least 24 immigrants died in ICE custody since the start of the Trump Administration. Since May 2015, Freedom for Immigrants documented nearly 1,400 people on hunger strike in 18 immigration detention facilities. There is no other option but to close these detention facilities. Our representatives have repeatedly said they care about our communities while simultaneously funding aggressive immigration enforcement through deterrence and deadly immigration jails.  Stopping the flow of money is critical to stopping the current administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. We join Freedom for Immigrants, Detention Watch Network, United We Dream and immigrant justice groups across the country in calling for elected officials to close #ClosetheCamps and #DefundHate.

August 15, 2019

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