Comment for Sept 18 Press Conference re. Hunger Strike

The following statement by Nathan Craig accompanies the Sept 18 press conference advisory demanding the release of hunger strikers at the El Paso Service Processing Center.

Asylum seekers come to the U.S. because, for much of the rest of the world, this nation is a beacon of freedom and liberty. Yet when asylum seekers arrive, what they experience is abusive incarceration by the very government they turned to for safety. The administration’s decision to unnecessary imprison asylum seekers who have no violent history is a deep and significant wound to the lofty ideals of universal human liberty upon which the US is founded. Holding these men does not make the nation safer. It is costly, cruel, unnecessary, and significantly erodes our fundamental ideals of government.

Force feeding hunger strikers is denounced by international and national medical associations as cruel and inhuman treatment. Likewise, cruel and inhuman treatment is a violation of half a dozen international human rights treaties to which the US is a signatory. For the executive branch to seek permission for forced feeding, for the courts to repeatedly grant that permission, and for congress to craft no laws explicitly prohibiting such abuse collectively constitutes an abject failure of all three branches of government to ensure liberty for all.

Hunger strike is nonviolent protest, a first amendment right. ICE frames force feeding of hunger strikers as an act of benevolence, to preserve life, and out of a need to maintain order. Yet, the source of any purported disorder in this situation is ICE’s decision to impose prolonged and unnecessary detention which is actually the root cause of these hunger strikes in the first place. Force feeding these men to break their protest is not an act of benevolence, it is a medicalized form of torture. Force feeding is imposed in the supposed interest of the state, to keep these men alive so that ICE can continue their unnecessary incarceration. Yet, if benevolence is ICE’s premise, then release is clearly more benevolent than torture. If maintaining order is ICE’s premise, then refraining from unnecessary and prolonged detention obviates the source of supposed disorder.

Releasing these men will not cause chaos in detention centers and will not undermine the safety of our communities. Instead, releasing people who pose no threat will eliminate the situations that cause hunger strikes. Unnecessary, and prolonged capricious detention of people fleeing persecution does not make us safe because those being held pose no threat. Such festering detention rots the foundation of liberty for all of us.

Free these hunger striking asylum seekers. Let them heal in the communities that are ready and willing to receive them. Put the principles of freedom and liberty into practice by allowing them to pursue their asylum claims free and liberated from the punitive conditions of prolonged and unnecessary detention.

–Nathan Craig

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