More and more asylum-seekers have been forced to go on hunger strikes in protest of their ongoing detention in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, NPR reports. Immigrant rights advocates said that as many as 150 detainees refused to eat in one protest at a Louisiana facility last month, making it “at least the sixth hunger strike at a detention center in the first three months of 2019 alone.”
Immigration officials could release asylum-seekers to relatives or other sponsors in the U.S., but instead “parole—a type of release granted to asylum-seekers who are found to have a credible fear of persecution in their home countries—has nearly disappeared altogether,” advocates say. Attorney General Bill Barr has also sought to deny some asylum-seekers release on bond, which could keep thousands detained for months, perhaps years.
Now, more desperate asylum-seekers have resorted to hunger strikes to protest their ongoing detention and abusive conditions. In one of the most widely reported strikes this year, ICE force-fed a number of detainees at the El Paso Processing Center in a torturous process that left some of the asylum-seekers with “nasal and rectal bleeding and vomiting.”
Two asylum-seekers, cousins Jasvir and Rajandeep Singh,”described the thrice-daily force-feeding process as painful and dehumanizing,” Texas Monthly reported. “Rajandeep was fed through a nasogastric tube through his nose and into his stomach for 29 days, Jasvir for thirteen. Jasvir said he couldn’t speak for eight days, until they placed smaller feeding tubes through his nose.”
The forced-feeding of some detainees continued until “a judge eventually ordered the agents to stop.” The cousins were eventually released on bond after eight months in custody. “It took aggressive lawyers, an aggressive member of Congress, and many other advocates to make this happen,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, the Texas congresswoman who rushed to the facility after the initial reports on the hunger strike.
The cruelty is the point. It’s why the Trump administration has also discussed jailing migrant children at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, even though there are alternatives to detention that are much more humane, treat asylum-seekers with dignity and respect, and save the taxpayer’s dollar. But instead, the administration has continued to wage its war against the most vulnerable. “We have never seen so many hunger strikes in so many different places in less than three, four months,” said immigrant rights advocate Maru Mora-Villalpando.