El Paso ICE Processing Center, Texas
July 8, 2019 – September 20, 2019
At least four immigrant detainees went on hunger strike on July 8, 2019, beginning a strike that would last approximately 74 days. The four men included asylum seekers from India seeking bond in order to be free while appealing deportation orders. Some had been held in detention as long as fifteen months.
At least one of the prisoners fled India due to fear of political violence. He told Texas Monthly, “If I go back to India, I will be tortured and killed. I can die here.”
According to a member of the immigrant rights group Advocate Visitors of Immigrants in Detention (AVID), the Bureau of Immigration Appeals makes it nearly impossible for people detained immediately after crossing the border to qualify for bond. Detainees are required to put up 100 percent of the bond amount. Immigrant Family Defense Fund reports that the cost to bond out also spiked dramatically through 2018.
One of the hunger strikers alleged that he was sent to the secure housing unit (SHU) nine times during the course of his detention, mostly for talking back to officers.
The four asylum seekers were transferred from the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico to the El Paso ICE Processing Center. AVID expressed concerns that ICE would force feed them, like they did to hunger strikers earlier in the year. The ACLU of Texas voiced the same fear, as ICE began seeking court orders to allow force feeding.
After the transefers, a total of five ICE detainees were on hunger strike at the El Paso Processing Center, while five others were on hunger strike at the Otero County Processing Center.
Three of the detainees at Otero County were transferred on July 29 to Krome Service Processing Center in Florida, supposedly in preparation for force feeding.
In mid-August, staff at the El Paso ICE Processing Center began force feeding three of the hunger strikers. A physician and Chief of the Division of Global Emergency Medicine stated that one of the prisoners experienced “the worst medical care I have seen in my 10 years of practice.”
Two of the original strikers were deported, while one was transferred to the Krome facility in Florida. Two remained on hunger strike until approximately September 20, a total of 74 days.
Those final two were released after agreeing to end their hunger strike.
“ACLU demands end to ‘inhumane’ force feeding at El Paso ICE processing center”, El Paso Times, July 25, 2019.
“A Hunger Strike in ICE Detention”, The New Yorker, October 29, 2019.
“Escalation of ICE Detention Hunger Strikes”, AVID, August 2, 2019.
“Gurjant Singh released after 75-day hunger strike”, AVID, October 1, 2019.
“Hunger Strike at El Paso Processing Center, Texas”, Perilous Chronicle, January 1, 2019.
“Hunger Strike Enters Third Week at El Paso ICE Detention”, Public News Service, July 25, 2019.
“Indian asylum seekers on hunger strike transferred to El Paso ICE Detention Facility”, El Paso Times, July 18, 2019.
“Indians on hunger strike in El Paso may be released from detention”, Indica News, September 26, 2019.
“More Asylum Seekers Stage Hunger Strikes at El Paso Detention Center”, Texas Monthly, July 18, 2019.
“Revealed: man force-fed in Ice custody at risk to ‘substandard care’, doctor says”, The Guardian, August 30, 2019.
Header photo source: inmateaid.com.
Article published December 27, 2019.