Press Conference: Wed Sept 18 to Demand Release of Detained Hunger Strikers

*Media Advisory*

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 18, 2019

Media Contact: Linda Corchado, Director of Legal Services, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center (915) 283-4706

Press Conference on Wednesday, September 18th to Demand the Release of Detained Hunger Strikers As Health Deteriorates

What: Press Conference to demand the release of two detained hunger strikers in El Paso.

EL PASO, TX — Immigration advocates are gathering at the Las Americas Immigration Advocacy Center on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, to demand the release of two asylum seekers from India.  Ajay Kumar and Vin S. are detained in the El Paso Service Processing Center and have both been on hunger strike for 72 days protesting their prolonged detention in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.  They are both being subjected to force-feeding and forced medical treatment. More details will be made available at the press conference.

When: 1:00 p.m. September 18th

Where: Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, 1500 E Yandell Dr, El Paso, TX 79902

Livestream at: https://www.facebook.com/DMSCElPaso/ & https://www.facebook.com/lasamericasIAC/

Who:

  • Linda Rivas, Executive Director, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
  • Nathan Craig, Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID)
  • Linda Corchado, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, Attorney for Ajay Kumar
  • Jessie Miles, Miles Immigration Law, Attorney for Vin S.
  • Margaret Brown Vega, AVID
  • Chris Benoit, Coyle Law Firm, Attorney for Ajay Kumar

Why:  Advocates are concerned about Ajay and Vin’s ability to survive prolonged detention as their condition rapidly deteriorates.

Statement from Linda Corchado, Las Americas Attorney for Ajay Kumar

In reviewing the grounds of continued detention by ICE, a federal judge found that the government failed to allege Mr. Kumar is violent or dangerous. He is a civil detainee, he is not charged with a crime and if he loses his case, the outcome is not incarceration but deportation. These differences matter. Force feeding is not the answer. Alternatives to detention exist, but they are a fiction in El Paso, especially for detainees who are held in Otero where some immigration judges deny bond as a punitive measure against illegal entry.

Mr. Kumar had illusions in India. He wanted to reform his country by working within the political structure. He wanted to empower the poor, ensure that the youth had a country they would be proud of, he wanted Indians to feel like they had a voice and that voice mattered. Even in ICE detention, he began to raise concerns of racism and disparate treatment towards Indians. He is inherently, a kind, peaceful man who seeks justice. Knowing what the current administration has done to both our court system and asylum law, I sadly tell Mr. Kumar that he had the grave misfortune of coming to this country to seek justice and refuge. Yet, even now, he still responds with a certain conviction, and tells me that America continues to be a bastion of hope for the persecuted. This is now his 72nd day on a hunger strike and a federal judge has just granted another order for force feeding.

Statement from Jessie Miles, Miles Immigration Law Attorney

After reviewing the record in my client’s case – I do not believe he had a fair shot at presenting his case and like so many men from India who are seeking asylum, he is facing grave danger if he is deported. He must be released now so that we can effectively appeal his case and so that justice can be done.

Statement from Margaret Brown Vega, volunteer with Advocate Visitors for Immigrants in Detention (AVID):

ICE and a local immigration judge denied any possibility of release to these men. They pose no threat, are not flight-risks, they have sponsors and community ties, and they want to pursue their asylum claims outside of detention. There was and is no reason to detain them. When legal channels for release are blocked by problematic immigration judges, and ICE does not follow its own rules for releasing people, those in detention are left with no option but to protest. ICE is at fault for this hunger strike, and the numerous hunger strikes that occurred, and are underway, in immigration detention facilities across the country. No one held in immigration detention should need to go to these lengths to receive just and humane treatment, and a fair chance at pursuing their immigration case.

These mens’ action, sacrificing their health, in the face of such injustice should bring shame to ICE, to immigration and federal court judges, to detention center staff, to Congress, and to all of us for permitting this horrific situation to continue. I’ve watched their bodies deteriorate. One of these men is 5’9’’ and weighs 94 pounds. Their suffering is horrible, yet they bear it to insist on freedom from detention. Their suffering could end if ICE showed compassion and exercised their discretion to release them. It’s time to free these men now before they die, so that they may begin to recover before it is too late.

Written statement by Nathan Craig, volunteer with AVID

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AVID, DMSC, SAALT, and 25 partner organizations submitted a letter on February 8th, 2019 to then Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, calling for the immediate release of nine asylum seekers on hunger strike at the El Paso Service Processing Center and an investigation into force-feeding at the facility. Though the DHS Office of the Inspector General conducted an investigation in March, the results of that investigation have never been released. Given the ongoing use of force-feeding at this facility, and in other ICE detention camps, results of the investigation must be made public.

Community groups launched petitions to support the men currently on hunger striker at the El Paso Service Processing Center. Nearly 24,000 people signed petitions demanding the cessation of force-feeding and the immediate release of these asylum seekers. Offices of more than 50 members of congress in the House and Senate have received periodic updates on the status of these hunger strikers.

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The Borderland Immigration Council consists of immigration attorneys, local nonprofits, and members of the community who are concerned with Immigration Customs and Enforcement leadership’s pattern of denial of discretionary relief for immigrants and refugees in the El Paso area. BIC advocates for all migrants and families facing the unjust system of immigration. For more information, please visit https://www.borderlandimmigrationcouncil.org/.

Other partner organizations

  • Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID)
  • Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC)
  • South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT
  • Detention Watch Network (DWN)

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