ICE initiates force-feeding process for South Asian asylum seekers on hunger strike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Decem­ber 13, 2019

ICE agents are force-hydrat­ing at least five asy­lum seek­ers from India detained at Jena-LaSalle Deten­tion Facil­i­ty in Jena, Louisiana and force-feed­ing three South Asian men at the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter in El Paso, Texas. The eight men have been on pro­longed hunger strike, some near­ing two months with­out eat­ing. 

The five men in Louisiana are being sub­ject­ed to forced hydra­tion, which is car­ried out by a team of five to six peo­ple who hold the per­son down while an IV is admin­is­tered. Local advo­cates say forced-hydra­tion began on Nov. 18 and that the men are expect­ed to face force-feed­ing by naso-gas­tric tube any day.

 All three men detained in El Paso, includ­ing one man who has been detained for near­ly three years, are cur­rent­ly being force-fed via naso-gas­tric tubes. 

Force-feed­ing, a prac­tice that has been denounced as tor­ture by the Unit­ed Nations, Physi­cians for Human Rights, the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, and the World Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion, has been occur­ring in the El Paso facil­i­ty through­out the year. Since Jan­u­ary, local advo­cates report at least 16 peo­ple have been or are cur­rent­ly being sub­ject­ed to force-feed­ing prac­tices at that deten­tion facil­i­ty. All of them have been force-fed with tubes that are near­ly twice the size of the tubes denounced inter­na­tion­al­ly that were used in Guan­tanamo. Some of the men hunger strik­ing were deport­ed with­out a strict re-feed­ing pro­to­col, a process which accord­ing to Physi­cians for Human Rights, can lead to death. 

Mr. Singh (whose name has been changed to pro­tect his iden­ti­ty) is an Indi­an asy­lum seek­er cur­rent­ly in the Jena-LaSalle facil­i­ty who is flee­ing reli­gious per­se­cu­tion. In a writ­ten state­ment he said:

Since January 21st, 2019, I have been imprisoned inside four walls. For almost one year, I have been suffering. I have never in my entire life lived like this inside four walls nor am I accustomed to living in imprisonment. I do not know how long my asylum case will take, which is why I want to fight my case from outside this prison [...] I only have one demand: I want freedom and I want to fight my case from outside. 

Over 34,000 South Asian migrants have been appre­hend­ed at U.S. bor­ders since 2008. The num­ber of Indi­an migrants appre­hend­ed at the bor­der tripled from almost 3,000 in 2017 to near­ly 9,000 in 2018. SAALT and part­ners tracked a pat­tern of abuse towards South Asian migrants in deten­tion since 2014 that drove many to hunger strike includ­ing: inad­e­quate or non-exis­tent lan­guage access, denial of reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions, use of soli­tary con­fine­ment as a form of retal­i­a­tion, gross med­ical neglect, and high bond amounts result­ing in pro­longed deten­tion.

We are extremely disturbed by the patterns of abuse against South Asian asylum seekers in detention. No one should have to go to such great lengths simply to have their cases heard and to gain their freedom. They should not be in detention in the first place and the only legitimate alternative is release, said Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Inter­im Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT.

Full press release with coali­tion part­ners here.

Media con­tact: sophia@saalt.org

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South Asian Migrants in Detention

South Asian Migrants in Deten­tion: A Fact­sheet

This fact sheet pro­vides an overview of trends in South Asian migra­tion along the U.S. South­ern bor­der, con­di­tions many South Asian migrants face in deten­tion facil­i­ties, spe­cif­ic deten­tion cas­es SAALT has tracked since 2014,  and num­bers of undoc­u­ment­ed Indi­ans.

The death of 6‑year-old Gurupreet Kaur

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 17, 2019

We are dev­as­tat­ed to learn of the death of 6‑year-old Gurupreet Kaur.

Gurupreet’s body was found by U.S. Bor­der Patrol agents in a remote desert out­side the Lukeville, Ari­zona point of entry on Wednes­day, June 12th, just days before her sev­enth birth­day.

She died of heat stroke in the Ari­zona desert where tem­per­a­tures were 108 degrees Fahren­heit, accord­ing to U.S. Bor­der Patrol and the Pima Coun­ty Office of the Med­ical Exam­in­er (PCOME).

Gurupreet and her moth­er were report­ed­ly among a group of five Indi­an nation­als who were dropped off by migrant traf­fick­ers in a remote area on the U.S.-Mexico bor­der. Her moth­er and anoth­er woman went in search of water, leav­ing Gurupreet with two oth­ers from the group. Gurupreet’s moth­er was found by a U.S. Bor­der Patrol agent 22 hours lat­er. Four hours after that, Bor­der Patrol agents found Gurupreet’s body.

Sev­en migrant chil­dren have died in immi­gra­tion cus­tody since last year. Hun­dreds more have died close to ports of entry while attempt­ing to make the per­ilous jour­ney through the desert along the U.S.-Mexico bor­der.

SAALT is send­ing a let­ter of inquiry to Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion­er, Kevin K. McAleenan this week, demand­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion into Gurupreet’s death and infor­ma­tion about her moth­er and the oth­er migrants in their group.  

As U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion has esca­lat­ed bor­der enforce­ment and aggres­sive­ly turned away migrants attempt­ing to cross at ports of entry, deaths have con­tin­ued to mount. Migrants are forced right back into the dan­ger­ous con­di­tions that CBP and oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies often blame on migrant traf­fick­ers and smug­glers.

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Inter­im Co-Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT said, “U.S. bor­der mil­i­ta­riza­tion, forced migra­tion, and rejec­tion of migrants attempt­ing to cross at ports of entry have cre­at­ed an envi­ron­ment where a child like Gurupreet, can die in the desert, alone. Until this sys­tem is com­plete­ly defund­ed and a new one is cre­at­ed that upholds the dig­ni­ty of all migrants — we will con­tin­ue to see unspeak­able tragedies, not with­stand­ing the count­less deaths that go undoc­u­ment­ed. While ICE and CBP have expe­ri­enced unprece­dent­ed surges in their bud­gets, their treat­ment of migrants has plunged to new lows.

SAALT has been track­ing both the rise in the num­ber of South Asians cross­ing the bor­der over the last 5 years and their treat­ment in deten­tion facil­i­ties. Between Octo­ber 2014 and April 2018, Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion (CBP) arrest­ed over 17,000 South Asians.

Of the South Asians who end up in deten­tion facil­i­ties, SAALT has tracked a pat­tern of abuse includ­ing inad­e­quate lan­guage access, lack of reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions, med­ical neglect, use of soli­tary con­fine­ment, and unac­cept­ably high bond amounts.  

We urge our com­mu­ni­ties to stay engaged and active on this urgent issue.  

Stay updat­ed and active by fol­low­ing our updates and action alerts on Twit­ter (SAALTweets) and Face­book (facebook.com/talktosaalt).

You can also sup­port by donat­ing to these orga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide imme­di­ate assis­tance:

  • The Fron­ter­i­zo Fian­za Fund is a com­mu­ni­ty bond (fian­za) fund based in El Paso and serv­ing Far West Texas and New Mex­i­co. Many detained migrants have no chance to be released while they wait the months or years until their tri­al. When some­one does receive a bond, they are often way out of reach for most fam­i­lies, rang­ing any­where from $1,500–50,000.
  • The Flo­rence Immi­grant and Refugee Rights Project is the only orga­ni­za­tion in Ari­zona that pro­vides free legal and social ser­vices to detained men, women, and chil­dren under threat of depor­ta­tion.
  • The Refugee and Immi­grant Cen­ter for Edu­ca­tion and Legal Ser­vices (RAICES) pro­motes jus­tice by pro­vid­ing free and low-cost legal ser­vices to under­served immi­grant chil­dren, fam­i­lies and refugees in Cen­tral and South Texas.
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Men who Sustained 80-day Hunger Strike Released from El Paso Detention Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 17, 2019

Jasvir Singh and Rajan­deep Singh were released from the Otero Coun­ty Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter last week almost three months after ini­tial reports that they were among nine Sikh men on hunger strike whom ICE agents were force feed­ing in the El Paso Ser­vice Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter.

El Paso and Las Cruces based com­mu­ni­ty groups and nation­al advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions launched a coor­di­nat­ed cam­paign to demand ICE cease force feed­ing and release the men.   

ICE released both men on bond after con­sis­tent pres­sure from local Rep. Veron­i­ca Escobar’s office and local and nation­al advo­cates, and days after a Con­gres­sion­al Del­e­ga­tion from the House Com­mit­tee on Home­land Secu­ri­ty vis­it­ed and toured facil­i­ties in El Paso where they exam­ined immi­gra­tion poli­cies and oper­a­tions along our south­ern bor­der.

Three of the men who had orig­i­nal­ly been among the nine on hunger strike remain in deten­tion. While on hunger strike at EPSPC they report­ed reg­u­lar phys­i­cal, ver­bal, and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse at the hands of facil­i­ty guards.

Jasvir and Rajan­deep sus­tained a hunger strike for near­ly 80 days to protest their con­di­tions and treat­ment in deten­tion. They had been held in the EPSPC since Novem­ber 2018.  Ini­tial­ly they were part of a group of 13 men in the EPSPC, ten from India and three from Cuba, who began hunger strik­ing at the end of Decem­ber.

Four of the men tak­ing part in the hunger strike were deport­ed and returned to India in ear­ly March. A fifth man who agreed to stop his hunger strike in Jan­u­ary in return for much need­ed surgery, was also deport­ed.

Quotes:

Jen­nifer Apo­da­ca of the Detained Migrant Sol­i­dar­i­ty Com­mit­tee who led advo­ca­cy efforts in El Paso said, “ICE always had the dis­cre­tion to release peo­ple but refused to use it. It shouldn’t have tak­en an angry con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion to secure their release. Instead, they con­tin­ue to ignore the com­plaints of abuse and tor­ture and turn a blind eye at the con­di­tions of deten­tion and prison spaces that house more than 52,000 peo­ple as they await their fate in our bro­ken and biased immi­gra­tion courts. All of this could have been avoid­ed. It is time to abol­ish the deten­tion and depor­ta­tion machine.

Nathan Craig from Advo­cate Vis­i­tors with Immi­grants in Deten­tion (AVID) vis­it­ed the hunger strik­ers reg­u­lar­ly in the El Paso facil­i­ty. He said, “From their ini­tial asy­lum requests, to their treat­ment while hunger strik­ing, to their var­i­ous hear­ings, all of these men expe­ri­enced sub­stan­tial dis­crim­i­na­tion based on the lan­guage they speak and the way they dress. Unfound­ed val­ue judge­ments by and prej­u­dices from U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials and con­trac­tors result­ed in sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive con­se­quences for these men’s asy­lum claims. Inad­e­quate, or com­plete lack of, inter­pre­ta­tion was a chron­ic prob­lem.  All of the men told me about how they were sub­ject­ed to fre­quent racial and eth­nic slurs while detained. Sad­ly, more than the facts of their cas­es, these men’s asy­lum claims have been struc­tured by prej­u­dice on the part of immi­gra­tion offi­cials and their con­trac­tors. This must change. Wrong­do­ing at all stages of the process must be inves­ti­gat­ed. Jus­tice must be brought for those men still in the US, and those men already deport­ed must be afford­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to return to the US to pur­sue jus­tice for what is wide­ly rec­og­nized as tor­tur­ous treat­ment in deten­tion.”

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Inter­im Co-Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT), a nation­al advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion for South Asians that led nation­al advo­ca­cy efforts said,  “We are relieved that Jasvir and Rajan­deep have final­ly been released, but it should not have tak­en this long. And, we remain deeply con­cerned for the three men who remain in deten­tion — we fear they could be deport­ed back to India and into the dan­ger­ous con­di­tions they fled. We also know there are thou­sands more peo­ple housed in deten­tion facil­i­ties across the coun­try, suf­fer­ing from the same litany of abuse and due process vio­la­tions that our gov­ern­ment refus­es to acknowl­edge and address. It is clear that our nation’s entire under­stand­ing of deten­tion must be over­hauled. As a start, we need Con­gress to pass leg­is­la­tion that will hold facil­i­ties account­able with penal­ties and even the threat of shut­ting down for their repeat­ed pat­terns of non­com­pli­ance.”

Con­tact: Sophia@saalt.org

# # #

Letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Demanding Release of Hunger Strikers in El Paso ICE Facility

Feb­ru­ary 8, 2019

Ms. Kirst­jen M. Nielsen Sec­re­tary of Home­land Secu­ri­ty Wash­ing­ton, D.C. 20528

Sec­re­tary Nielsen,

We write to express our deep and urgent con­cern about the treat­ment of Indi­an-Pun­jabi Sikh and Cuban asy­lum seek­ers detained at the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter in Texas, in par­tic­u­lar 11 of who have been on hunger strike since late Decem­ber, 2018. Through nasal tubes and IV, Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE) offi­cials are force-feed­ing nine Pun­jabi detained asy­lum seek­ers; six of these nine indi­vid­u­als have been force-fed since Jan­u­ary. It is imper­a­tive that the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) imme­di­ate­ly release the indi­vid­u­als engaged in these hunger strikes to ensure their well-being, safe­ty, and pro­tec­tion of their due process rights.

Just today, our orga­ni­za­tions learned of dis­turb­ing retal­i­a­tion against the strik­ers. An attor­ney rep­re­sent­ing two of the detained hunger strik­ers report­ed that ICE offi­cials threw nine of the hunger strik­ers into soli­tary con­fine­ment for refus­ing to be force-fed while stand­ing up. This fol­lows reports on Wednes­day, Feb­ru­ary 6, that ICE offi­cials threat­ened four of the hunger strik­ers with immi­nent depor­ta­tion, alleged­ly sched­uled for today, Feb­ru­ary 8, 2019.

A lawyer rep­re­sent­ing two of the detained immi­grants informed South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) that her clients’ arms and legs were tied to a chair to facil­i­tate the force- feed­ing. The force-feed­ing tube stays in their nasal pas­sages 24/7. On some of the indi­vid­u­als, the tubes are too large, caus­ing nasal bleed­ing and pain. Many of the detained asy­lum seek­ers have wounds and lesions on their throats and nasal pas­sages, are suf­fer­ing from rec­tal bleed­ing and bleed­ing while vom­it­ing, per­sis­tent stom­ach pain, and are hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty speak­ing and breath­ing. We are deeply con­cerned about their health and well-being at the hands of guards and med­ical staff at the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter.

On Jan­u­ary 30, 2019 an Asso­ci­at­ed Press arti­cle detailed the sto­ry of deten­tion cen­ter staff force-feed­ing Cuban and Pun­jabi asy­lum seek­ers who have been on hunger strike to protest their pro­longed deten­tion and denial of bond at bond hear­ings after pass­ing cred­i­ble fear inter­views. This lat­est strike rep­re­sents an esca­la­tion of per­va­sive and his­tor­i­cal­ly dis­crim­i­na­to­ry behav­ior against South Asian asy­lum seek­ers in par­tic­u­lar, that has been extend­ed to Cuban asy­lum seek­ers in this case and across var­i­ous pop­u­la­tions.

The detained immi­grants have also been sub­ject­ed to pro­longed psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse by ICE and deten­tion staff. They are being denied reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions and are rou­tine­ly threat­ened with depor­ta­tion, seg­re­ga­tion, and soli­tary con­fine­ment. We believe these threats are a form of retal­i­a­tion for draw­ing atten­tion to their cas­es through the hunger strike.

Last­ly, the asy­lum seek­ers are being denied ade­quate lan­guage access inside the facil­i­ties regard­ing their legal rights and due process. All deten­tion facil­i­ties have an oblig­a­tion to pro­vide lan­guage inter­pre­ta­tion under Title VI of the Civ­il Rights Act and Exec­u­tive Order 13166 and under the ICE’s Per­for­mance Based Nation­al Deten­tion Stan­dards 2011 (rev 2016).

Our orga­ni­za­tions and many oth­ers have doc­u­ment­ed egre­gious, dan­ger­ous, and puni­tive con­di­tions expe­ri­enced by hunger strik­ers in deten­tion facil­i­ties across the coun­try, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter and Ade­lan­to Deten­tion Facil­i­ty. Asy­lum denial rates in El Paso and neigh­bor­ing New Mex­i­co, where some of the hunger strik­ers’ cas­es were heard, area­mong the high­est in the coun­try. The cur­rent El Paso immi­gra­tion judges aver­age about 95% for denials of asy­lum, with one judge not award­ing asy­lum in the last two years. Addi­tion­al­ly, El Paso and south­ern New Mex­i­co immi­gra­tion judges rou­tine­ly deny bond, result­ing in pro­longed deten­tion for many res­i­dents in the deten­tion facil­i­ty.

From 2014 through 2018, orga­ni­za­tions have doc­u­ment­ed sev­er­al instances of dam­ag­ing and inhu­mane treat­ment of asy­lum seek­ers on hunger strike in the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter and oth­ers across the coun­try.

2014

El Paso, TX: In 2014, the Sikh Coali­tion filed a com­plaint (No. 14–07-ICE-0183) with the DHS Office of Civ­il Rights and Civ­il Lib­er­ties (CRCL) about the treat­ment of 37 Pun­jabi asy­lum seek­ers detained in the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter for over one year. All of these asy­lum seek­ers passed their cred­i­ble fear inter­views and were denied bond or parole and went on hunger strike to protest their pro­longed deten­tion. They too received inad­e­quate med­ical care, retal­i­a­tion for their hunger strike, and no lan­guage inter­pre­ta­tion. In the end, many of them were deport­ed.

2015

El Paso, TX: In 2015, 54 South Asian asy­lum seek­ers, main­ly from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pak­istan went on hunger strike at the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter to protest their pro­longed deten­tion and demand inves­ti­ga­tions into unfair hear­ings and inter­fer­ence with their legal cas­es. These asy­lum seek­ers passed their cred­i­ble fear inter­views and were denied bond or parole. They too received inad­e­quate med­ical care, retal­i­a­tion for their hunger strike, and no lan­guage inter­pre­ta­tion. In the end, as egre­gious exam­ples of refoule­ment, many of them were deport­ed back to their deaths. In the 2014 and 2015 instances, the gov­ern­ment brought Indi­an and Bangladesh con­sulates into the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter with­out the con­sent of the asy­lum seek­ers. This endan­gered the secu­ri­ty of the detained immi­grants who were seek­ing asy­lum from these very gov­ern­ments rep­re­sent­ed by the respec­tive con­sular offices. These con­sulate rep­re­sen­ta­tives then intim­i­dat­ed detainees into end­ing their hunger strike, which is in direct vio­la­tion of 8 CFR 208.6 which “gen­er­al­ly pro­hibits the dis­clo­sure to third par­ties of infor­ma­tion­con­tained in or per­tain­ing to asy­lum appli­ca­tions, cred­i­ble fear deter­mi­na­tions, and rea­son­able­fear deter­mi­na­tion.”

In 2015, Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing (DRUM), The Nation­al Immi­gra­tion Project of the Nation­al Lawyers Guild (NIP-NLG), and South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) filed a com­plaint (No. 16–01-ICE-0012) with CRCL about the treat­ment of these 54 asy­lum seek­ers. In ear­ly 2017, we were informed the find­ings of a CRCL inves­ti­ga­tion were turned over to ICE for fur­ther action. We have fol­lowed up sev­er­al times for the find­ings of these inves­ti­ga­tions and have been giv­en no update.

2017

Ade­lan­to, CA: An asy­lum seek­er from Nicaragua detained in the Ade­lan­to Deten­tion Facil­i­ty com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2017 and sev­en more detained immi­grants attempt­ed sui­cides between Octo­ber 2016 and July 2018. This fol­lows the death of five asy­lum seek­ers from Mex­i­co, El Sal­vador, and Hon­duras over the last three years alone in Ade­lan­to, result­ing from med­ical neglect despite repeat­ed requests for med­ical atten­tion from detained immi­grants. In June 2017 near­ly 40 detained immi­grants from Guatemala, El Sal­vador, and Hon­duras launched a series of hunger strikes to protest their con­di­tions and treat­ment and faced severe retal­i­a­tion. In May, 2018 the DHS Office of the Inspec­tor Gen­er­al con­duct­ed a sur­prise vis­it of the facil­i­ty and con­clud­ed that it was vio­lat­ing ICE’s own deten­tion stan­dards. On August 15, 2018, a del­e­ga­tion of Mem­bers of Con­gress from the Con­gres­sion­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Cau­cus, led by Chair­woman Judy Chu, raised fur­ther ques­tions about hunger strikes, retal­i­a­tion, and woe­ful­ly inad­e­quate med­ical care of detained immi­grants in the Ade­lan­to Deten­tion Facil­i­ty.

2018

Sheri­dan, OR: In June, 2018, 70 South Asian detained immi­grants in the Yamhill Coun­ty Fed­er­al Prison were denied access to coun­sel, lan­guage inter­pre­ta­tion, and reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions. Some Sikh detained immi­grants were even forced to cut their hair.

Folk­ston, GA: Also in June, 2018 over 100 South Asian asy­lum seek­ers at the ICE Pro­cess­ing Facil­i­ty in Folk­ston, GA began a sec­ond hunger strike to protest their pro­longed deten­tion. Once again, after pass­ing cred­i­ble fear inter­views, the asy­lum seek­ers were denied bond by immi­gra­tion judges. DHS alleged­ly vis­it­ed the facil­i­ty in August, 2018, but there has been no update on the find­ings of this vis­it.

Vic­torville, CA: Also in June, 2018 near­ly 400 South Asian asy­lum seek­ers were held in the Fed­er­al Cor­rec­tion­al Insti­tu­tion in Vic­torville, CA. Many of the asy­lum seek­ers were Sikh and banned from wear­ing their tur­bans and denied oth­er reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions and ade­quate med­ical care at a facil­i­ty noto­ri­ous for its sca­bies and chick­en pox out­breaks. The detained immi­grants were also denied legal coun­sel and their cas­es were on indef­i­nite hold.

We request the fol­low­ing actions:

  1. Release the hunger strik­ers and pro­vide them with imme­di­ate med­ical atten­tion.
  2. Release the court order autho­riz­ing ICE or DHS offi­cials to engage in force-feed­ing the detained immi­grants in the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter.
  3. Con­duct an unan­nounced inspec­tion by the DHS Office of the Inspec­tor Gen­er­al.
  4. Con­duct imme­di­ate inde­pen­dent mon­i­tor­ing of the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter while inves­ti­ga­tions are car­ried out into alle­ga­tions against med­ical staff and guards, includ­ing the review of facil­i­ty video footage that doc­u­ments inci­dents of abuse and mis­treat­ment.
  5. Release the find­ings of the 2015 CRCL inves­ti­ga­tion into treat­ment of hunger strik­ers and vio­la­tion of Title VI pro­vi­sions in the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter to the com­plainants with­in 14 days.
  6. Con­duct an inves­ti­ga­tion to assess how ICE com­plies with Title VI pro­vi­sions relat­ing to lan­guage access in the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter and nation­wide across all deten­tion facil­i­ties. Release the find­ings to the pub­lic with­in 30 days.
  7. Imme­di­ate­ly con­duct an inves­ti­ga­tion of bond and parole process­es, includ­ing whether peo­ple are released, in the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter and nation­wide across all deten­tion facil­i­ties. Release the find­ings to the pub­lic with­in 30 days.

Signed,

  • Advo­cate Vis­i­tors with Immi­grants in Deten­tion (AVID) in the Chi­huahuan Desert
  • Arab Resource and Orga­niz­ing Cen­ter (AROC)
  • Chhaya CDC
  •  Defend­ing Rights and Dis­sent
  •  Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing (DRUM)
  •  Detained Migrant Sol­i­dar­i­ty Com­mit­tee
  •  Deten­tion Watch Net­work
  •  Free­dom for Immi­grants
  •  Gov­ern­ment Infor­ma­tion Watch
  •  Immi­grant Defense Project
  •   Immi­gra­tion Advo­cates Net­work
  •   Jakara Move­ment
  •   Kaur Law LLC — Ruby Kaur
  •   Nation­al Immi­grant Jus­tice Cen­ter
  •   Nation­al Immi­gra­tion Project of NLG
  •   Nation­al Net­work for Immi­grant and Refugee Rights
  •   NWDC Resis­tance
  •   Sakhi for South Asian Women
  •   Sap­na NYC, Inc.
  •   Ser­vices, Immi­grant Rights & Edu­ca­tion Net­work (SIREN)
  •   Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF)
  •   Sikh Coali­tion
  •   South Asian Amer­i­can Pol­i­cy & Research Insti­tute (SAAPRI)
  •   South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)
  •   South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter
  •   Texas Civ­il Rights Project
  •   The Reformed Church of High­land Park

ICE officials throw El Paso hunger strikers into solitary confinement after altercation over force-feeding, says attorney

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 8, 2019

El Paso, Texas — The nine Sikh asy­lum seek­ers on hunger strike in the El Paso Ser­vice Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter (EPSPC) have been thrown into soli­tary con­fine­ment after refus­ing to be force-fed stand­ing up, reports their attor­ney after speak­ing with a fam­i­ly mem­ber. Immi­grant rights advo­cates, civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tions, and local com­mu­ni­ty groups are deeply alarmed by this lat­est devel­op­ment involv­ing the nine Sikh asy­lum seek­ers who have been on hunger strike for more than 40 days to protest their incar­cer­a­tion at the EPSPC. Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE) has respond­ed with abu­sive retal­i­a­tion, includ­ing force-feed­ing at least nine of the asy­lum seek­ers, a cru­el, degrad­ing and inhu­mane prac­tice. ICE agents also threat­ened the asy­lum seek­ers with depor­ta­tion as ear­ly as Fri­day morn­ing.

“They have scars on their arms from IVs, and are suf­fer­ing from rec­tal bleed­ing and blood in their vom­it in addi­tion to per­sis­tent stom­ach, chest, and throat pain. They recount­ed abuse after abuse at the hands of ICE agents and med­ical staff at the facil­i­ty. They’ve lost 40 to 50 pounds,” said the attor­ney for two of the asy­lum seek­ers, Ruby Kaur, after vis­it­ing the facil­i­ty on Thurs­day. “They told me ICE agents have threat­ened them with depor­ta­tion as ear­ly as today, despite them being in no phys­i­cal con­di­tion to trav­el.  ICE agents respond­ed that there was noth­ing that they could do and that they didn’t care.”

Amrit Singh, the uncle to two of the Sikh asy­lum seek­ers on hunger strike, attempt­ed to put mon­ey into the com­mis­sary accounts of three of the strik­ers and mon­ey was returned back to his card.  This devel­op­ment is par­tic­u­lar­ly alarm­ing because ICE fre­quent­ly cuts off detainees’ phone accounts pri­or to depor­ta­tion.

“We demand the imme­di­ate release of the hunger strik­ers and that they receive crit­i­cal med­ical care,” said Nathan Craig of AVID. “ICE has a long doc­u­ment­ed his­to­ry of abuse, clear­ly indi­cat­ing that peo­ple are not safe in its cus­tody. We call on Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Esco­bar of Texas to stand with the migrant com­mu­ni­ty and demand their release, while insist­ing on an inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion of the facil­i­ty and ICE Field Office, yield­ing swift dis­ci­pli­nary con­se­quences over the strik­ers’ treat­ment.”

Since May 2015, Free­dom for Immi­grants has doc­u­ment­ed near­ly 1,400 peo­ple on hunger strike in 18 immi­gra­tion deten­tion facil­i­ties. A trou­bling pat­tern as Pres­i­dent Trump con­tin­ues to expand the deten­tion sys­tem to sky­rock­et­ing pro­por­tions, lead­ing to an increase in abuse and death. Since March of 2018, AVID vol­un­teers have been col­lect­ing reports of large num­bers of detained South Asians hunger strik­ing at both EPSPC and the neigh­bor­ing Otero Coun­ty Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter.

“In the shad­ow of Trump’s bor­der wall is immi­gra­tion deten­tion, a sys­tem shroud­ed in secre­cy where a cul­ture of vio­lence per­sists,” said Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Direc­tor of Pol­i­cy and Advo­ca­cy for South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT). “The retal­i­a­tion and abuse that hunger strik­ers have been forced to endure under­score the egre­gious con­di­tions endem­ic to the deten­tion sys­tem nation­wide. It also echoes the cas­es of abuse and tor­ture of South Asian migrants in par­tic­u­lar, in deten­tion facil­i­ties in the U.S., includ­ing most recent­ly at the Ade­lan­to Deten­tion Cen­ter in Cal­i­for­nia.”

Sign the peti­tion to sup­port the hunger strik­ers at the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter:  https://rightsanddissent.salsalabs.org/ICEForceFeeding/index.html

Media Con­tacts

Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org 202–997-4211

Liz Mar­tinez, lmartinez@freedomforimmigrants.org 956–572-4349

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Advo­cate Vis­i­tors with Immi­grants in Deten­tion (AVID) in the Chi­huahuan Desert works to end the iso­la­tion of immi­gra­tion deten­tion. Our vol­un­teers are from Las Cruces, El Paso, and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties. We vis­it and write to migrants who are detained in El Paso, Otero, and West Texas. avid.chihuahuan.org

Detained Migrant Sol­i­dar­i­ty Com­mit­tee (DMSC) is a com­mu­ni­ty group based in El Paso, TX, that fights to free the bor­der from the crim­i­nal­iza­tion and mass incar­cer­a­tion of migrants. We aim to reach this goal through sup­port ser­vices, orga­niz­ing, and actions that pro­mote more humane pub­lic pol­i­cy and respect for migrants and oth­er mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties.

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (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.

Deten­tion Watch Net­work (DWN) is a nation­al coali­tion of orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als work­ing to expose and chal­lenge the injus­tices of the Unit­ed States’ immi­gra­tion deten­tion and depor­ta­tion sys­tem and advo­cate for pro­found change that pro­motes the rights and dig­ni­ty of all per­sons. Found­ed in 1997 by immi­grant rights groups, DWN brings togeth­er advo­cates to uni­fy strat­e­gy and build part­ner­ships on a local and nation­al lev­el to end immi­gra­tion deten­tion. Vis­it www.detentionwatchnetwork.org.

Defend­ing Rights & Dis­sent (DRAD) is a nation­al civ­il lib­er­ty orga­ni­za­tion that strength­ens our par­tic­i­pa­to­ry democ­ra­cy by pro­tect­ing the right to polit­i­cal expres­sion and work­ing to make the promise of the Bill of Rights a real­i­ty for every­one.

DRUM — Desis Ris­ing Up & Mov­ing orga­nizes low income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immi­grants, work­ers, and youth in NYC for edu­ca­tion­al, immi­grant, racial, work­er, and gen­der jus­tice.

Free­dom for Immi­grants is Devot­ed to abol­ish­ing immi­gra­tion deten­tion, while end­ing the iso­la­tion of peo­ple cur­rent­ly suf­fer­ing in this prof­it-dri­ven sys­tem. Free­dom for Immi­grants pro­vides sup­port to peo­ple in immi­gra­tion deten­tion and mon­i­tors and doc­u­ments human rights abus­es through a nation­al net­work of vis­i­ta­tion pro­grams, a free hot­line and com­mu­ni­ty-based alter­na­tives to deten­tion. www.freedomforimmigrants.org

Ruby Kaur — Kaur Law LLC

Nation­al Immi­gra­tion Project of the NLG pro­motes jus­tice and equal­i­ty of treat­ment in all areas of immi­gra­tion law, the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, and poli­cies relat­ed to immi­gra­tion. We pro­vide tech­ni­cal assis­tance and sup­port to legal prac­ti­tion­ers, immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions, and all advo­cates seek­ing and work­ing to advance the rights of nonci­t­i­zens.

 

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