Notorious El Paso Facility Continues Abuse of South Asian Asylum Seekers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 31, 2019

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is deeply disturbed by reports of staff at the El Paso, TX detention processing center force-feeding mostly Indian and Cuban detainees in the midst of a hunger strike. Up to 30 detainees, the majority of whom have pending asylum claims, went on a hunger strike after verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of ICE and detention center staff at the notorious El Paso facility.

These horrifying reports are only the most recent in a series of unaddressed civil rights violations reported at the El Paso facility since 2015, at which point SAALT, along with other organizations, pursued legal action. In 2015, mostly Bangladeshi asylum seekers at the El Paso facility went on hunger strike to protest the indefinite delays in their cases after passing “credible fear” interviews, an initial and important step in the asylum process. SAALT, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild filed an official civil rights complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over treatment of the asylum seekers.

DHS has yet to address the civil rights violations at the El Paso facility reported in 2015, and now more asylum seekers face violence and abuse.

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, issued the following statement:
“Individuals should not have to put their bodies and lives on the line to draw attention to their indefinite detention. Our nation’s immigration system should provide protection from violence and persecution, yet current practices create an increasingly punitive asylum process, which only extends the violence and persecution asylum seekers are fleeing.”

Since 2015, SAALT has also documented reports of South Asian detainees in additional facilities in Oregon, California, and Georgia who have gone on hunger strikes to protest prolonged detention, denial of legal counsel, and a range of civil rights violations from providing inadequate medical care to withholding language interpretation to denying religious accommodations.

SAALT is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States.

Contact:  Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org