SAALT argues for force-fed asylum-seekers

Ritu Jha –

A group advocating for the civil rights of South Asians expressed disquiet over about Indian and Cuban detainees at the El Paso, Texas detention processing center being force-fed in the midst of a hunger strike. But immigration officials said they adhered to strict privacy policies.

South Asian Americans Leading Together pointed out that up to 30 detainees, the majority of whom have pending asylum claims, went on a hunger strike, allegedly after verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and detention center staff at the El Paso facility.

Leticia Zamarripa, an ICE spokesperson, told indica, “ICE is committed to ensuring that those in our custody reside in safe, secure and humane environments and under appropriate conditions of confinement.

“US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference. 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. And ICE spends more than $250M annually on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to ICE detainees.”

According to Zamarripa, there are nine detained asylum-seekers from India on hunger strike. To maintain their health, they are currently being hydrated and fed non-consensually under federal court orders.

In November 2018, a group of detainees housed in the Otero County (New Mexico) Processing Center, went on a hunger strike for several days. Some of them embarked on another hunger strike in December and January. The detainees do not want to be returned to their countries of origin, a decision that is ultimately rendered by an immigration judge.

The El Paso (Texas) Processing Center is an ICE facility. The Otero County (New Mexico) Processing Center is a contract facility that operates under an intergovernmental service agreement (IGSA).

Ruby Kaur, a Michigan-based attorney representing one of the hunger strikers, told the New York Times that her client had been force-fed and put on an IV after four weeks without eating or drinking water. Her client has lost about 50 pounds in the 31 days he has been on hunger strike.

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