Cubans at Otero County Processing Center Protest Detention

Hunger strikes, sit-ins, and suicide attempts

Protests of prolonged detention, denials of release, and lack of due process are underway yet again at the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, New Mexico. On Friday, October 11 at least 15 Cubans refused to come back inside from their outside yard time. Reportedly wearing multiple uniforms and jackets to withstand the cold temperatures, they were prepared to stay outdoors for an extended period of time. The sit-in ended later that day, but reports that some of the men cut their wrists over the weekend emerged from within the detention center. This news of self-harm among Cubans coincides with the death by suicide of Roylán Hernández Díaz who was incarcerated at an ICE detention center in Louisiana.

In the last year, hunger strikes are very common at the Otero facility. However, threats of mass suicide and suicide attempts are a new development as those in detention reach their limits. “No hay ninguna solución aquí” reported one Cuban. Those held in detention at Otero face particularly difficult ICE officials who routinely deny release to individuals with a generic assertion that they are flight risks. The immigration judges at the Otero court are particularly skeptical, often denying bond for the same reason. Denial rates of asylum claims in the court are substantially higher than the national average. Those in detention assert judges make blanket accusations of lack of credibility against entire ethnic groups or nationalities. In addition, a history of poor conditions and civil rights abuses is now well-documented at the privately-run detention facility. These systemic problems converge to create an impossible situation for those in ICE detention, who reach a point of desperation with few options to protest their confinement. Protests such as the current one underway are not new, and in fact are the latest in waves of protests that have occurred at the facility in the last year. In July, eight asylum seekers from India protested their unjust and prolonged detention, due process violations, and discrimination by initiating hunger strikes at Otero. They waged a long-term hunger strike, with two men persisting for more than 74 days before winning their freedom. Many of the Cubans now protesting have also engaged in multiple short-term hunger strikes, with no redress. Now, it appears several are willing to engage in self-harm out of utter frustration. Whether engaging on hunger strike for nearly three months, or cutting one’s wrists, no one should have to go to these lengths to get a fair chance in court, decent treatment, and their basic right to freedom.

For Immediate Release
October 17, 2019
Contact: avid[at]chihuahuan.org