Inmates in prisons across the country are in the midst of a 19-day strike. The protest, which started Tuesday, is in response to the April riots in Lee Correctional Institution, which left seven prisoners dead, and calls for improved conditions at federal, state, and immigration prisons. (Read the full list of demands here.) Now, immigrants at a detention center in Washington have joined the fight.
More than 60 people detained at Northwest Detention Center are participating in a hunger strike. In a letter posted by the NWDC Resistance/Resistencia al NWDC on Facebook, one immigrant details the injustices faced at the detention center. “We are taking part in a hunger strike nationwide, demanding change and closure of those detention centers,” the letter starts off. “We are acting with solidarity for all those people who are being detained wrongfully, and stand together to help support all those women who have been separated from their children and to stop all the family separations happening today for a lot of us are also being separated and we have US citizen children.”
Then, the letter explains that officials force detainees into worker programs. “This is a private corporation and it is using slave labor to run its operation to capacity,” the letter reads.
As many as 200 people were expected to go on strike, but many feared retaliation and decided not to participate, according to Newsweek. Maru Mora, a spokesperson for NWDC Resistance, added that immigration officials have force fed detainees before. “The retaliation is real,” she said. “We have documented it again and again every time a hunger strike happens.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Tanya Roman said that “ICE takes the health, safety, and welfare of those in our care very seriously. The agency is committed to ensuring that they are provided with the nutrients necessary for them to maintain their well-being.”
However, Mora denied Roman’s claims: “They don’t recognize a hunger strike until after nine meals have been skipped and even then won’t recognize it officially because they say that while people are not eating meals, they are eating from the commissary.”