The injustices of our "broken immigration system"—President Obama's words—are not going to simply go away. Immigrant rights activists say the hunger strike by detainees at Tacoma's privately-run Northwest Detention Center has spread all the way to Conroe, Texas, where GEO Group, the country's second-largest prison company, operates another immigrant detention facility.
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"We demand...that deportations stop immediately, due to the separation of families, the separation of parents from their children and the way it is affecting the children's future physically and emotionally," one detainee writes in an unsigned note. The letter also accuses guards of "abusing their authority and being verbally abusive, using inappropriate words making us feel inferior and lowering our self esteem."
In Tacoma, three hunger strikers remain under medical observation. Rep. Adam Smith (D-9) has requested that he be allowed to visit the facility and meet with them this week, his office said today.
Beyond the indignities described by the hunger strikers in both states, let's take a moment to note the grotesque abomination that is the GEO Group corporation itself. David Venturella, a longtime high-ranking ICE official,
After all, "decriminalization of drugs...reductions in crime rates...immigration reform laws...could materially adversely impact us," the company spells out in its 2012 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In other words, GEO profits from everything that is stupid and inhumane about our criminal justice system. This is the company we're entrusting to detain people who come here fleeing poverty and violence.
With a second hunger strike on its hands, however, pressure is growing on immigration authorities to implement reforms, regardless of GEO's interests. The ACLU of Washington has pledged to fight any attempt by ICE to force-feed detainees, while the agency's penchant for denying immigrants bond, shackling them during hearings, and separating thousands of parents from their children with record numbers of deportations came under fire last week from both the courts and President Obama.
ICE and GEO Group have not responded to requests for comment today on the hunger strike's spread.