The detainees allege inhumane treatment, including prolonged detention and solitary confinement
Sikh asylum-seekers held at the Folkston Detention Center in Georgia have been treated inhumanely and are losing hope, according to Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta, a non-profit legal advocacy group.
The Folkston Detention Center is a for-profit entity, owned and operated by the GEO Corporation. It holds people with no criminal history.
, director of legal services at the group, told indica that between 60 and 120 South Asian asylum seekers went on a month-long hunger strike in April to protest the blanket denial of bonds ordered by the Atlanta immigration court.
In July, another group of about 30 South Asians had gone on hunger strike for a week to protest the same issue, for which many of them were placed in solitary confinement, according to Jamil.
The strike did not last because the hunger strikers were allegedly placed in very cold rooms without a blanket or sufficiently warm clothes.
Most of the South Asians have been at Folkston since December 2017.
Jamil said that Advancing Justice Atlanta is working on the individual cases of some detainees but has not filed a lawsuit.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told indica they had not seen this allegation.
“In general, ICE fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference,” the official said. “ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers. ICE explains the negative health effects of not eating to our detainees for their health and safety, ICE closely monitors the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike.”
Advancing Justice Atlanta is the only legal advocacy nonprofit dedicated to the civil rights of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in Georgia and the Southeast.
It works on public policy, legal education and support, civic engagement, and defense of rights for these groups.
“They were denied bonds even if they had sponsors. The judge kept saying they were at flight risk,” Jamil said. “It was surprising.”
She said that immigration courts are generally hard on immigrants and that the Atlanta immigration court has a bond grant rate of just 2 percent, the lowest in the country. On the positive side, she said, three detainees that her group represented had got out on bond.
All South Asians were being denied bond, she said, adding that seeing the inhumane conditions they lived in, her group had joined with other civil rights organization, including South Asian Americans Leading Together, and wrote a letter in June to ICE and the Department of Justice about this issue. She said they were yet to hear back.
Jamil said the Sikhs asylum seekers fear for their life in India but a few of them have been deported back there and put their plight down to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.
“What they [the Sikhs] wanted was to get out,” she said. “Many of them are young men. They are losing hope and are afraid to go back to their country, fearing they could be killed.”