- Alex Garland
But Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hasn't yet resorted to force-feeding detainees at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, because it seems to be a rolling, collective protest—with immigrants joining in and dropping out as they see fit until conditions change inside the privately-run facility.
In a statement distributed by activists today, detainee Ramon Mendoza Pascual says she hasn't eaten since March 7 and that three people will stay on hunger strike as long as it takes. On Thursday, ICE said eight detainees are under medical observation—four new detainees who just joined the strike, and another four who "ate a very small portion of their meals, but not enough for medical officials to count them as having eaten."
The exact number of detainees on hunger strike is not really the point, though, activist Maru Mora Villalpando (herself an undocumented immigrant) pointed out yesterday in an interview with Democracy Now. I suggest you watch the whole segment. Villalpando tears the government a new one over its record-breaking deportations, reliance on private prison companies, and inability to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The detainees also speak for themselves in audio recordings. Here's what one of them said:
So that they give us better food, so that they give us lower prices on what they sell here in the commissary, and so that they stop the deportations, I’m hoping we can get some support from all the people who are listening, because—don’t believe what you hear—life in here is not very easy.
All this agitation—remember that the hunger strikers said they were inspired by an activist sit-in outside the facility last month—is getting results. In a press release, Congressman Adam Smith (D-9) says he's asked ICE jointly with Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-1) to explain "what's being done to fix the situation," but hasn't received a response to questions about bond process, length of detention, and nutrition at the Northwest Detention Center. And the White House announced yesterday that it's ordering the Department of Homeland Security to review "how it can conduct [immigration] enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law."
Here's one idea: Instead of locking up immigrants while their cases are processed, comply with a federal judge's new ruling and let them post bond and go home to their families.