LaSalle Detention Facility/LaSalle ICE Processing Center, Jena, Louisiana
October 31 – end date unknown

At least five asylum seekers from India have been force-hydrated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after refusing to eat for over two months, says the immigrant-advocate group Freedom for Immigrants.

As of January 6, the hunger strikes were ongoing, according to Rebekah Entralgo, Media Advocacy Specialist with Freedom for Immigrants.

ICE Spokeswoman for the El Paso office Leticia Zamarripa refused to comment on the hunger strike or the force-feeding of detainees.

The five detainees are being subjected to forced hydration, a process by which a team of up to six people hold a detainee down while an IV is administered. Local advocates say the forced-hydration began on November 18 and that the men are soon expected to face force-feeding by naso-gastric tube.

Force-feeding has been denounced as torture by the United NationsPhysicians for Human Rights, the American Medical Association, and the World Medical Association.

The LaSalle Detention Facility is a privately-run detention center owned and operated by the GEO Group under contract with ICE.

The hunger strikers are protesting against their confinement in the ICE facility and demanding their release. In a statement given to Freedom for Immigrants, one hunger striker said,

Since January 21, 2019, I have been imprisoned inside four walls. For almost one year, I have been suffering. I have never in my entire life lived like this inside four walls nor am I accustomed to living in imprisonment. I do not know how long my asylum case will take, which is why I want to fight my case from outside this prison […] I only have one demand: I want freedom and I want to fight my case from outside.

The hunger strike at the Louisiana facility comes amidst a rise in hunger strikes at ICE facilities statewide. Perilous has documented at least five other acts of protest at Louisiana ICE facilities this year alone, with four of those coming in the form of hunger strikes.

In early December, detainees at Winn Correctional Center, a privately run jail in Winn Parish held a protest against their confinement. The detainees refused to go in from the yard and held sheets and towels inscribed with messages such as “Libertad.” Guards deployed pepper spray against a group of 50 detainees to end the protest.

Just months before, in August, a similar protest took place on the yard at Pine Prairie Processing Center, yet another privately run detention facility in Louisiana. The protest involved over 115 detainees demonstrating on the yard amidst a hunger strike at the facility. Guards responded with pepper spray and rubber bullets.

Just days before the incident at Pine Prairie, guards at Bossier Medium Security Facility pepper-sprayed a group of 30 immigrant detainees during yet another protest.

Out of the approximately 52,000 immigrants being detained nationally, Louisiana imprisons 8,000 of them. LaSalle is one of eight Louisiana jails re-purposed over the past year to start housing asylum seekers and other migrants, making Louisiana an unlikely epicenter for immigration detention.

The boom in detention of immigrants in Louisiana comes amidst the lowering of the jail population in the state. As the state scrambles to keep its privately run jails open, new contracts with ICE have been signed to keep beds full, now with immigrant detainees.

Citations:

ICE initiates force-feeding process for South Asian asylum seekers on hunger strike in Louisiana and Texas facilities“, Freedom for Immigrants, December 12, 2019.

Rebekah Entralgo, Media Advocacy Specialist, Freedom for Immigrants, Personal Interview, January 6, 2020.

Background:

Louisiana becomes new hub in immigrant detention under Trump“, Associated Press, October 9, 2019.

 

Header photo source: Louisiana Justice Institute

Article published: December 18, 2019. Updated January 7, 2019.