Ajay and Gurjant on hunger strike for 74 days

ICE decision to release is not coming fast enough

On Monday evening, ICE transferred Ajay Kumar and Gurjant Singh to El Paso LTAC, a long-term acute care facility. Now having surpassed 70 days on hunger strike, the risk of death grows with each hour. After a press conference on Wednesday, in which images of the two Indian men on hunger strike at El Paso Service Processing Center were shown, advocates and attorneys expected quick response from ICE. Indeed, ICE transferred Ajay and Gurjant from LTAC back to the detention facility. But after a day of back and forth with attorneys, no final word came from the Assistant Field Office Director, Wayne Cox, or the Deputy Field Office Director, Jose Rentería that they would be released.

Nearly two weeks ago ICE deported a third man on his 63rd day of his hunger strike. He weighed 100 pounds, yet we understand a use-of-force team of six individuals took him as he refused to be returned to India. The evening before he was removed, advocates spoke with him. He was in tremendous physical pain, and in no condition to be put on an international flight. Yet ICE medical staff cleared him for deportation. Ajay and Gurjant are now back under the “care” of this same medical staff. After experiencing humane treatment at El Paso LTAC, they did not want to return to detention.

If ICE cleared a man for deportation who was on hunger strike, ICE can clear Ajay and Gurjant to be released to their sponsors and supporters. A local physician has already offered to oversee their recovery. Upon release, Ajay and Gurjant will stop their hunger strike and can begin to recuperate. If ICE does not release these men soon, they will die. There is no reason for that to happen.

Over 24,000 people signed petitions demanding the release of these hunger strikers. More than 50 congressional offices, in both the House and the Senate, were informed on multiple occasions about the dire situation in which these freedom-seekers find themselves. Advocates and attorneys asked ICE to show compassion and release these men to the care of our community. In the last year El Paso area communities demonstrated clearly that they can care for immigrants when the government refuses to. ICE officials must respond to attorneys today with an approval for immediate release.

TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION:

Call your member of congress today and ask that they intervene to demand the ICE release Ajay and Gurjant before they die.

Sign the petitions: Call on ICE and Congress to stop the force-feeding and to release these men immediately (add your name here and here).

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 immigrant justice groups across the country in calling for elected officials to #ClosetheCamps and #DefundHate.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2019
Contacts: avid[at]chihuahuan.org