Gurjant Singh released after 75-day hunger strike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 1, 2019

Media Contacts:
Jessie Miles, 915-801-6181, jessie@milesimmigrationlaw.com
AVID, Avid@chihuahuan.org

Indian asylum seeker Gurjant Singh released after 75-day hunger strike

On Monday, after a long struggle that included a 75-day hunger strike, Gurjant Singh was released from the El Paso Processing Center in El Paso, Texas. He had broken his hunger strike on September 22nd when he weighed 89 pounds and since then has gained back 19 pounds. Reintroducing food after prolonged hunger strike can result in organ failure, cardiac arrest, and refeeding syndrome, but supporters who met Gurjant upon release saw him walking, carrying his belongings, and in high spirits. “Being out feels really good” says Gurjant.

Gurjant and Ajay after their release.

Gurjant’s release comes after a two and a half month protest of his unnecessary detention.  Gurjant along with Ajay Kumar and two other men, stopped eating on July 9th while they were detained at the Otero County Processing Center.  They began their hunger strike after being unnecessarily detained for close to a year. They were subject to force-feeding, solitary confinement, and medical abuse at the hands of ICE over the course of their hunger strike.

“The detention center is like a cage that you would put an animal or a bird in. Being out, we can go wherever we want to go, eat whatever we want to eat. It’s the freedom of being out”, said Gurjant and Ajay. Both men had been denied bond by an immigration judge who alleged they would be flight risks. Gurjant and Ajay are still navigating their asylum cases, and are eager to see those through. “We will follow all the rules and do what ICE tells us. We prove we are not flight risks. Now with the freedom we have we will be starting a new life.”

Statement from Attorney Jessie Miles:

“I am thankful Gurjant is released and can now get the care that he needs to recover from his ordeal. I am still very saddened by the fact that he had to put himself through 75 days of a hunger strike to have a chance at a just outcome in his case. He came to the US seeking asylum and we have failed him every step of the way. He was denied a bond by an immigration judge known for bond denials. He was then denied asylum by the same judge, who is known for his denial of Indian asylum cases. Now he seeks justice at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which I hope he will finally receive.

Until the injustices in the system are addressed, including ICE’s policy of detention, immigration judges who pre-judge cases, and horrendous medical care, I think we will continue to see men like Gurjant who refuse to give up and who put their bodies on the line to draw attention to these injustices. There is no doubt that Gurjant is the hero of this story, and we all have a lot to learn from him.”

– Jessie Miles

Statement from Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID):

“When we first met all four men who began the hunger strike, including Gurjant and Ajay, they told us they could not live in detention anymore. It is always difficult for us to see people suffering in detention, especially because we know there is no reason to detain them. Seeing Gurjant, Ajay and the others deteriorate physically over the last couple of months simply because they wanted to be free was heart-breaking. But their commitment to securing their release kept all of us working as hard as we could to support their effort. Seeing them free, smiling, even singing, after what they’ve gone through, is a reminder that we take freedom for granted. No one should have to nearly starve themselves to death, and undergo torturous force-feeding, to be able to live free. There is no need for immigration detention. There is no moral, legal or economic justification for treating anyone the way these men were treated.”

– Margaret Brown Vega

Statement from the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC):

“The sacrifice that Ajay and Gurjant made for their freedom as they endured 75 days on hunger strike in addition to several weeks of painful force-feedings could have been avoided if ICE had treated these men and the many thousands of people suffering in detention with dignity and respect. Detention is deadly and we know ICE intentionally inflicts harm towards people through prolonged incarceration, abuse, denial of due process and basic human rights. The indignities suffered by men and women in ICE detention are the root cause of the frequent hunger strikes that have taken place in detention spaces all over the country.”

-DMSC
Gurjant and Ajay with members of AVID and DMSC