Richwood Correctional Center, Monroe, Louisiana
March 25, 2020
A group of detainees held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at the Richwood Detention Center in Louisiana organized a hunger strike demanding their freedom in the midst of a growing outbreak of COVID-19 in jails, prison and detention centers in the US. According to a statement recorded by the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network and published by Latino Rebels, 60 of the 64 detainees in one housing unit are participating in the strike.
One detainee, F, released the following statement on the hunger strike, which was translated and published by Latino Rebels:
The truth is that we have one request: our freedom. Why? Because of the situation that is happening on a global scale. People are dying from coronavirus. Even in the United States, a world power, a first world power, the hospitals are collapsed. Here we are vulnerable, you understand?
Here for us, if an officer comes in, gives us coronavirus, do you think that for us immigrants, the treatment they’ve given us during this whole time, is an adequate treatment? They’re not going to take a face mask from anyone, from any American, to put it on an immigrant. That means we are going to die. You understand? And ICE doesn’t guarantee us any kind of safety.
What we need, to not go on too long, is our freedom, because this is about humanity. This isn’t about an immigration treaty, this isn’t about a bond, or a parole, or an asylum case. This is about the fact that we are human beings. We aren’t animals.
And everyone is worried, and everyone outside is protecting themselves, and we are vulnerable. Who is protecting us? Who is worried about us? We have families. Mom, dad, siblings, daughters, sons. Our families outside are worried about us.
We’re standing our ground here. We haven’t gone to the dining hall for three days. Right now, in the midst of the repression, I’m guessing it’s the prison that has the televisions turned off. ICE came and told us that the news is all lies. To not believe the news. And right now, I don’t know what time it is. What time is it? At four, three forty in the afternoon, the televisions are still turned off, because since we don’t want to go eat, they’re putting pressure on us by keeping the televisions off, we aren’t taken out to the yard, we’re here in the bunker, walking over here, walking over there, we have nothing else to do.
All the bunkers are like that. Here there are 287 people. That’s how many are here in Richwood. And right now there are 64 of us here. In fact, there are 60 here in this bunker [on hunger strike]. Four people are eating.
Our health up until now is okay. What we don’t want is for the virus to show up and infect us all, and only then to look for a solution. Because what they’re going to do then is they’re going to put us all under quarantine and whoever’s gonna die is gonna die. Because here in this facility they don’t have the means to take care of all of us. Here all they’ve got is four nurses and a doctor who comes once a week.
Hilda Jorge Perez, whose husband is at Richwood and is participating in the hunger strike, spoke to The Guardian about the protest there. Perez said that the detainees ended their hunger strike after ICE officials threatened to transfer them to solitary confinement and take away their phone and television access.
“Ice Detainees Announce Hunger Strike in Louisiana Prisons as Mississippi Organizations Call for Their Release.”, Latino Rebels, March 26, 2020.
“Detainees in US immigration jails living in fear as coronavirus spreads”, The Guardian, March 29, 2020.
Article Published: 3/29/2020
Header Photo Source: LaSalle Corrections