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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SAALT Denounces Trump Administration attack on Immigrant Children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 22, 2019

Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: On Wednes­day, the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion announced a new rule that would give the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS)  the pow­er to hold immi­grant fam­i­lies — includ­ing chil­dren — indef­i­nite­ly. The new rule direct­ly under­mines the Flo­res Agree­ment, which for decades has pro­vid­ed some pro­tec­tions for chil­dren includ­ing min­i­mum safe­ty and cus­tody stan­dards and a require­ment that they be released with­in 20 days.

The Trump Admin­is­tra­tion’s new rule would allow DHS to detain chil­dren indef­i­nite­ly with­out over­sight or basic stan­dards of care.   At least sev­en chil­dren alone have died under DHS cus­tody since last year.

The con­tin­ued and relent­less attacks on immi­grant fam­i­lies — on immi­grant chil­dren — are incom­pre­hen­si­ble at this point.

Our rep­re­sen­ta­tives have repeat­ed­ly said they care about our com­mu­ni­ties while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly fund­ing aggres­sive immi­gra­tion enforce­ment and dead­ly immi­gra­tion jails.  Stop­ping the flow of mon­ey is crit­i­cal to stop­ping Trump’s anti-immi­grant agen­da. There is no oth­er humane option but to demand our elect­ed offi­cials #Clos­ethe­Camps and #Defund­Hate imme­di­ate­ly and with­out delay.

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.

Update on South Asian restaurant workers detained by ICE

July 11, 2019

Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: A com­mu­ni­ty mem­ber reached out to SAALT last week alert­ing staff that sev­er­al South Asian restau­rant employ­ees had been detained by ICE and tak­en to the Mont­gomery Coun­ty Cor­rec­tion­al Facil­i­ty the week before.  

Giv­en that the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion has announced immi­nent raids, SAALT issued a com­mu­ni­ty alert to pre­pare our com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers for future ICE raids in the com­ing days or weeks. 

Over 500 peo­ple respond­ed to the alert, vol­un­teer­ing to help com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers pre­pare by offer­ing to assist with legal mat­ters, pro­vide lan­guage sup­port, and to dis­trib­ute Know Your Rights mate­ri­als  in DC.

A com­mu­ni­ty mem­ber pro­vid­ing direct sup­port to the detained South Asian restau­rant employ­ees reached out to SAALT and said, “Two weeks ago, nine South Asian restau­rant work­ers were detained by ICE at the Mont­gomery Coun­ty Cor­rec­tion­al Facil­i­ty. Four were released the same day and the remain­ing five indi­vid­u­als were released at a lat­er date.” 

South Asians are increas­ing­ly impact­ed direct­ly by the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion’s anti-immi­grant poli­cies and SAALT strives to pro­tect and defend our com­mu­ni­ties by exam­in­ing and doc­u­ment­ing the impact of these poli­cies, cre­at­ing edu­ca­tion­al resources, and mak­ing pol­i­cy rec­om­men­da­tions. 

There are over 600,000 undoc­u­ment­ed Indi­ans alone in the U.S. Between fis­cal year 2015 to 2018, ICE arrest­ed over 2,000 Indi­an and Pak­istani migrants alone with­in the inte­ri­or of the Unit­ed States. The num­ber of Indi­an migrants appre­hend­ed along the South­ern bor­der tripled from fis­cal year 2017 to 2018Between Octo­ber 2014 and April 2018, Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion (CBP) arrest­ed over 17,000 South Asians.  South Asians go on to expe­ri­ence civ­il rights vio­la­tions and human rights abus­es in deten­tion facil­i­ties and court rooms at the inter­sec­tions of racism, islam­o­pho­bia, and anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ment. 

SAALT will con­tin­ue to work to pro­tect and defend South Asian com­mu­ni­ties in the US, espe­cial­ly at a time when immi­grants are being tar­get­ed, whether at their work­places, homes, restau­rants, hotels, or along the bor­der.

Restau­rant Oppor­tu­ni­ty Cen­ter (ROC-DC), a restau­rant work­ers’ rights orga­ni­za­tion, issued this state­ment, in response to the alert about the detained South Asian restau­rant employ­ees: 

ICE raids are a seri­ous issue for immi­grant work­ers all of the time but are espe­cial­ly preva­lent in light of the most recent threats. There have already been mul­ti­ple cas­es of ICE activ­i­ty in our DC com­mu­ni­ties and that activ­i­ty specif­i­cal­ly tar­gets restau­rants and restau­rant work­ers. Right now we need to come togeth­er as work­ers, employ­ers and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers in DC to edu­cate our­selves on our rights so that we are able to pro­tect our­selves and each oth­er in our work­places, the streets and in our homes.

We do not want to cre­ate a cul­ture of fear around these issues but instead empow­er peo­ple to know what their rights are and who their com­mu­ni­ty is that is here to sup­port them. ROC DC has been work­ing with mul­ti­ple oth­er com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide know your rights mate­ri­als & train­ings to work­ers and employ­ers in DC in prepa­ra­tion for any raids. We must con­tin­ue to band togeth­er and fight back the racist attacks that seek to tear apart our com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies.

Con­tact: Sophia@saalt.org 

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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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South Asians by the Numbers: Population in the U.S. has grown by 40% since 2010

May 15, 2019

SAALT released its lat­est South Asian demo­graph­ic snap­shot today, reveal­ing a com­mu­ni­ty in the U.S. that’s grow­ing almost as fast as it is chang­ing.

By 2065, Asian Amer­i­cans are on track to be the largest immi­grant pop­u­la­tion in the U.S. The South Asian pop­u­la­tion in the U.S. grew a stag­ger­ing 40% in sev­en years, from 3.5 mil­lion in 2010 to 5.4 mil­lion in 2017.

Key demo­graph­ic facts:

  • The Nepali com­mu­ni­ty grew by 206.6% since 2010, fol­lowed by Indi­an (38%), Bhutanese (38%), Pak­istani (33%), Bangladeshi (26%), and Sri Lankan pop­u­la­tions (15%).
  • There are at least 630,000 Indi­ans who are undoc­u­ment­ed, a 72% increase since 2010.
  • There are cur­rent­ly at least 4,300 active South Asian DACA recip­i­ents.
  • Income inequal­i­ty has been report­ed to be the great­est among Asian Amer­i­cans. Near­ly 10% of the approx­i­mate­ly five mil­lion South Asians in the U.S. live in pover­ty.
  • There has been a rise in the num­ber of South Asians seek­ing asy­lum in the U.S. over the last 10 years. ICE has detained 3,013 South Asians since 2017. U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol arrest­ed 17,119 South Asians between Octo­ber 2014 and April 2018 through bor­der and inte­ri­or enforce­ment.

The South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in the Unit­ed States includes indi­vid­u­als who trace their ances­try to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Mal­dives, Nepal, Pak­istan and Sri Lan­ka. The com­mu­ni­ty also includes mem­bers of the South Asian dias­po­ra – past gen­er­a­tions of South Asians who orig­i­nal­ly set­tled in oth­er parts of the world, includ­ing the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Cana­da and the Mid­dle East, and oth­er parts of Asia and the Pacif­ic Islands. South Asian Amer­i­cans include cit­i­zens, legal per­ma­nent res­i­dents, stu­dents, H‑1B and H‑4 visa hold­ers, DACA recip­i­ents, and undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants.

SAALT’s Inter­im Co-Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran said, “As we wit­ness this unprece­dent­ed growth in our com­mu­ni­ties, it is more impor­tant than ever that the needs of the most vul­ner­a­ble South Asian pop­u­la­tions are met. South Asians are impact­ed by the full spec­trum of fed­er­al immi­gra­tion poli­cies — from deten­tion and depor­ta­tion to H‑4 visa work autho­riza­tion and denat­u­ral­iza­tion to the assault on pub­lic ben­e­fits. An accu­rate Cen­sus 2020 pop­u­la­tion count is essen­tial to dis­trib­ut­ing crit­i­cal fed­er­al fund­ing to our com­mu­ni­ties. A cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion on the cen­sus would chill thou­sands of com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, result­ing in a severe under­count, with at least 600,000 South Asians in the coun­try not being count­ed and thou­sands more deterred. And, this means even few­er resources to the com­mu­ni­ties who need it the most.”

SAALT’s demo­graph­ic snap­shot is based pri­mar­i­ly on Cen­sus 2010 and the 2017 Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty Sur­vey. We encour­age com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers, gov­ern­ment enti­ties, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, and jour­nal­ists  to use this data to bet­ter under­stand South Asian Amer­i­cans and help inform their engage­ment with this com­mu­ni­ty.

Con­tact: Sophia@saalt.org

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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

# # #

PRESS RELEASE: SAALT hosts Congressional Briefing “Detention, Hunger Strikes, Deported to Death”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEAESE

April 2, 2019

On April 2, SAALT and immi­grant jus­tice part­ners UndocuBlack Net­work, Deten­tion Watch Net­work, Unit­ed We Dream, Free­dom for Immi­grants, Sikh Coali­tion, Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF) host­ed a Con­gres­sion­al Brief­ing on Capi­tol Hill to draw imme­di­ate atten­tion to the rise in South Asians seek­ing asy­lum in the U.S. to escape vio­lence, per­se­cu­tion, and repres­sion along­side migrants from African, South­east Asian, Cen­tral Amer­i­can, and Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries.

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Inter­im Co-Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT opened the brief­ing say­ing, “We are all here today to say loud and clear that immi­gra­tion is a Black issue, immi­gra­tion is a Lat­inX issue, immi­gra­tion is a South Asian issue, immi­gra­tion is an LGBTQ issue. It is the prac­tice of sol­i­dar­i­ty and local orga­niz­ing that we hope to uplift today for Capi­tol Hill to see, to under­stand immi­grant deten­tion, and to address the litany of vio­la­tions and abus­es faced by detained indi­vid­u­als.”

A pan­el of expert com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and advo­cates includ­ing Jen­nifer Apo­da­ca, of the Detained Migrant Sol­i­dar­i­ty Com­mit­tee in El Paso; Ruby Kaur, an attor­ney for two of the #ElPaso9; Deep Singh, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Jakara Move­ment; Patrice Lawrence, Nation­al Pol­i­cy Direc­tor of UndocuBlack Net­work; Car­los Hidal­go, Immi­gra­tion Rights Activist and mem­ber of Free­dom for Immi­grants lead­er­ship coun­cil; and Sanaa Abrar, Advo­ca­cy Direc­tor of Unit­ed We Dream high­light­ed a series of abus­es and civ­il rights vio­la­tions doc­u­ment­ed in deten­tion facil­i­ties from Ade­lan­to, CA to El Paso, TX. They cit­ed cas­es of med­ical neglect, inad­e­quate lan­guage access, denial of reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions, retal­i­a­tion for hunger strikes, and the prac­tice of soli­tary con­fine­ment. Advo­cates urged Mem­bers of Con­gress and their staff to take imme­di­ate action through spe­cif­ic leg­is­la­tion, over­sight, and appro­pri­a­tions rec­om­men­da­tions.

Quotes from Mem­bers of Con­gress:

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Judy Chu (CA-27): “I want to com­mend SAALT for putting togeth­er today’s brief­ing to high­light the diverse com­mu­ni­ties impact­ed by the xeno­pho­bic poli­cies of the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion and our bro­ken immi­gra­tion and deten­tion sys­tem. Over the past few years, we have seen a spike in the num­ber of indi­vid­u­als seek­ing asy­lum from India, Bangladesh, Pak­istan, and Nepal who have suf­fered from neglect and abuse at the hands of our own fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. This is unac­cept­able. As Chair of the Con­gres­sion­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Cau­cus, I will con­tin­ue to work with my col­leagues to push for greater trans­paren­cy, account­abil­i­ty, and over­sight of these facil­i­ties.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Karen Bass (CA-37), Chair of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Cau­cus: “The sep­a­ra­tion of immi­grant fam­i­lies is a vio­la­tion of human rights. This out­ra­geous pol­i­cy along with the Trump Administration’s attempt to deport indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in the Unit­ed States, many of whom now know the U.S. as their home, must be addressed imme­di­ate­ly. I look for­ward to work­ing with my col­leagues and the Tri-Cau­cus on a per­ma­nent solu­tion and a path to cit­i­zen­ship for many of the fam­i­lies impact­ed by these poli­cies.”

Rep Suzanne Bonam­i­ci (OR‑1) said: “Far too often, I hear from Amer­i­cans who are hor­ri­fied by the Trump administration’s treat­ment of peo­ple seek­ing safe­ty at our bor­der. I am grate­ful to South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er and oth­ers for bring­ing con­tin­ued atten­tion to the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion’s ter­ri­ble deten­tion and enforce­ment poli­cies. I saw first­hand how these poli­cies are hurt­ing peo­ple when I vis­it­ed detainees at a fed­er­al prison in Sheri­dan, Ore­gon. We must do every­thing we can to pro­tect the human rights of every indi­vid­ual. When I learned about the hunger strikes in El Paso, I joined Rep. Esco­bar in call­ing for an inves­ti­ga­tion of the con­di­tions at ICE deten­tion facil­i­ties. My col­leagues and I will con­tin­ue push­ing for strong over­sight that holds this admin­is­tra­tion account­able for its appalling treat­ment of those seek­ing refuge and asy­lum.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Grace Meng (NY‑6): “I want to thank SAALT for its lead­er­ship in stand­ing up for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty, and I thank all the part­ner orga­ni­za­tions that are fight­ing tire­less­ly for those who have been unjust­ly abused in deten­tion facil­i­ties through­out the Unit­ed States. The U.S. has always been a nation of immi­grants but Pres­i­dent Trump’s poli­cies and rhetoric toward those who came to our coun­try in search of a bet­ter life has been cru­el and un-Amer­i­can. He has made the tar­get­ing of immi­grants a cen­tral part of his admin­is­tra­tion while per­sis­tent­ly lob­bing big­ot­ed, ver­bal attacks at immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties. From sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies to feed­ing only pork sand­wich­es to a Mus­lim detainee, the administration’s actions have been abhor­rent. Our found­ing fathers would be repulsed by what has been tak­ing place over the past two years. As a Mem­ber of the House Appro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee on Home­land Secu­ri­ty, I will con­tin­ue to hold Pres­i­dent Trump and his admin­is­tra­tion account­able for the immi­gra­tion poli­cies that they have imple­ment­ed. My pri­or­i­ty is to end these inhu­mane immi­gra­tion enforce­ment prac­tices, and ensure that every­one is treat­ed with dig­ni­ty and respect.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Takano (CA-41): “I’m grate­ful for this strong coali­tion of immi­grant rights groups work­ing togeth­er to shed light on the injus­tices and cru­el­ty immi­grants are fac­ing under this Admin­is­tra­tion. I share with them extreme con­cern about how immi­grants, refugees, and asy­lum seek­ers are being treat­ed at the hands of our gov­ern­ment. Con­gress must con­tin­ue to exert its over­sight pow­ers to hold the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion account­able and bring human­i­ty back to our immi­gra­tion sys­tem.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Veron­i­ca Esco­bar (TX-16): “For the past two years, our coun­try has wit­nessed an unprece­dent­ed attack against our immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty. From sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies to force-feed­ing detainees, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has con­stant­ly imple­ment­ed poli­cies that vio­late our laws and Amer­i­can val­ues. That is why, now more than ever, we need to raise our voic­es and share the sto­ries of those impact­ed by cru­el­ty in order to hold the admin­is­tra­tion account­able and ensure this pat­tern of abuse comes to an end.”

For a record­ed stream of the Brief­ing, please click here.

In Col­lab­o­ra­tion with:

Con­gres­sion­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Cau­cus (CAPAC) | Con­gres­sion­al Black Cau­cus (CBC) | Con­gres­sion­al His­pan­ic Cau­cus (CHC) | Con­gres­sion­al LGBT Equal­i­ty Cau­cus | Con­gres­sion­al Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus (CPC) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzanne Bonam­i­ci (OR‑1) |Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gil Cis­neros (CA-39) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Judy Chu (CA-27)| Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Veron­i­ca Esco­bar (TX-16) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal (WA‑7) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bar­bara Lee (CA-13) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Grace Meng (NY‑6) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez (NY-14) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Pocan (WI‑2) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Takano (CA-41)

Hon­orary Co-hosts:

Sen­a­tor Ben Cardin (MD) | Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris (CA) | Sen­a­tor Jeff Merkley (OR)

Con­tact: sophia@saalt.org

 

Immigration Advocates Warn of Physical and Mental Harm to Hunger Strikers in El Paso Detention Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 15, 2019

EL PASO, TX — Immi­gra­tion advo­cates and med­ical experts are deeply con­cerned over the ongo­ing hunger strike at the El Paso Ser­vice Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter and the dire sit­u­a­tion fac­ing peo­ple held in indef­i­nite deten­tion, espe­cial­ly as their health dete­ri­o­rates.

The “El Paso 9” have been sub­ject­ed to bru­tal force-feed­ings, mis­treat­ment and retal­ia­to­ry actions by U.S. Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE) and pri­vate con­trac­tors fol­low­ing their hunger strike, which began in late Decem­ber 2018. At least two of the “El Paso 9” have entered the 11th week of their hunger strike.  

Of the group of men who were on hunger strike or sup­port­ing the hunger strike, two have been deport­ed, three have been trans­ferred to the Otero Coun­ty Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter in New Mex­i­co, and four remain detained at the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter, two of whom are still on hunger strike and are in med­ical iso­la­tion.

Nathan Craig, a vol­un­teer with Advo­cate Vis­i­tors in Deten­tion, who recent­ly vis­it­ed one of the hunger strik­ers in El Paso, said, “At this point, hav­ing not eat­en since Decem­ber, he can bare­ly walk and hold up his head. In his frail state, think­ing and talk­ing are slow and labo­ri­ous. He must be afford­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to recu­per­ate out­side of deten­tion so that he can pre­pare for his mer­its hear­ing and cross-exam­i­na­tion.

Physi­cians for Human Rights (PHR), which has long argued that force-feed­ing against an individual’s wish­es is uneth­i­cal and inhu­mane, says pre­cau­tions must be tak­en to ensure those on hunger strike receive ade­quate med­ical atten­tion and accom­mo­da­tions. PHR also rec­om­mends that Con­gress fund alter­na­tives to deten­tion pro­gram­ming that rep­re­sent a long-term solu­tion to pre­vent human rights vio­la­tions doc­u­ment­ed in immi­gra­tion deten­tion. Below is an offi­cial state­ment by Physi­cians for Human Rights:

Hunger strik­ing is a non­vi­o­lent form of protest under­tak­en when oth­er means of express­ing griev­ances are unavail­able, and hunger strik­ers must be pro­tect­ed from any and all reprisals. Physi­cians for Human Rights calls for all pre­cau­tions to be tak­en to ensure that hunger strik­ers receive need­ed med­ical atten­tion, and that accom­mo­da­tions be made to ensure appro­pri­ate trans­port so that they are not injured. Not eat­ing may result in light­head­ed­ness, so wheel­chairs should be pro­vid­ed as need­ed.

“Exten­sive med­ical research shows that immi­gra­tion deten­tion is harm­ful and strong­ly cor­re­lat­ed with neg­a­tive men­tal health out­comes, while pro­longed or indef­i­nite deten­tion vio­lates the right to be free from tor­ture and oth­er cru­el, inhu­mane, or degrad­ing treat­ment.

“The U.S. immi­gra­tion deten­tion sys­tem has repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed a dan­ger­ous lack of account­abil­i­ty and trans­paren­cy, and the recent hunger strikes are just one more exam­ple illus­trat­ing this dire sit­u­a­tion. As a long-term solu­tion, PHR strong­ly rec­om­mends the use of alter­na­tives to deten­tion that are humane and cost-effec­tive and that have been proven to ensure com­pli­ance with immi­gra­tion enforce­ment.

In a sep­a­rate com­ment, Altaf Saa­di, MD, a neu­rol­o­gist at UCLA and a mem­ber of Physi­cians for Human Rights’ Asy­lum Net­work, said,

Pro­longed deten­tion caus­es sig­nif­i­cant med­ical harm to indi­vid­u­als due to both denial and delays in med­ical care, inad­e­quate staffing, puni­tive approach­es to men­tal health needs like the mis­use of iso­la­tion, and harm­ful con­di­tions of con­fine­ment more broad­ly like poor and over­crowd­ed liv­ing con­di­tions. The human toll of deten­tion is com­pound­ed for those already vul­ner­a­ble and suf­fer­ing from trau­ma based on per­se­cu­tion they have endured in their home coun­tries. We don’t want more patients join­ing the list of those whose deaths have been linked to sub­stan­dard care in deten­tion, nor do we want to see the last­ing impacts of deten­tion-relat­ed psy­cho­log­i­cal harm.”

ICE has threat­ened the hunger-strik­ing men with depor­ta­tion despite the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of their health.

Immi­gra­tion and civ­il rights groups are demand­ing the imme­di­ate release of the men and for them to be able to address their asy­lum cas­es out­side of deten­tion, as they should have been able to do from the begin­ning.

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Direc­tor of Nation­al Pol­i­cy and Advo­ca­cy for South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) said, “These asy­lum seek­ers, like so many before them, resort­ed to a hunger strike to draw atten­tion to the litany of abus­es they face at the hands of ICE on top of the indef­i­nite delays in adju­di­cat­ing their asy­lum cas­es.  We demand the imme­di­ate release of all of the detained indi­vid­u­als so they can be cared for by their com­mu­ni­ty. And, we demand an imme­di­ate inves­ti­ga­tion into the civ­il rights vio­la­tions, retal­i­a­tion, and med­ical neg­li­gence at the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter, a facil­i­ty that SAALT and our part­ners have been mon­i­tor­ing and lodg­ing com­plaints about over the last five years. We know the treat­ment of detained indi­vid­u­als in El Paso is a micro­cosm of con­di­tions across deten­tion facil­i­ties in this coun­try.”

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

###

Free­dom for Immi­grants 

Advo­cate Vis­i­tors with Immi­grants in Deten­tion (AVID), in the Chi­huahuan Desert

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)

Defend­ing Rights & Dis­sent

Nation­al Immi­gra­tion Project of the NLG

Detained Migrant Sol­i­dar­i­ty Com­mit­tee

Ruby Kaur -Kaur Law Pllc

La Resisten­cia

 

NAKASEC, SAALT, and SEARAC Welcome Introduction of American Dream and Promise Act

Wash­ing­ton, D.C.: Asian Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions wel­come the intro­duc­tion of the Amer­i­can Dream and Promise Act. The bill, intro­duced by Reps. Lucille Roy­bal-Allard (D‑CA 40), Nydia Velazquez (D‑NY 7), and Yvette Clarke (D‑NY 9), pro­vides a major­i­ty of undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants eli­gi­ble for the Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals (DACA) pro­gram and indi­vid­u­als with sta­tus under the Tem­po­rary Pro­tect­ed Sta­tus (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Depar­ture (DED) pro­grams a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship.

There are more than 11.5 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants, 1.7 mil­lion of whom are Asian Amer­i­can. The top five coun­tries of ori­gin for Asian Amer­i­can undoc­u­ment­ed indi­vid­u­als are India, Chi­na, South Korea, the Philip­pines, and Viet­nam. The leg­is­la­tion would pro­tect over 2 mil­lion indi­vid­u­als from deten­tion and depor­ta­tion by cre­at­ing a per­ma­nent path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for these pop­u­la­tions. Fur­ther­more, approx­i­mate­ly 120,000 Asian Amer­i­can DREAM­ERs and 15,000 Nepali Amer­i­cans who cur­rent­ly live in the Unit­ed States through the TPS pro­gram would ben­e­fit from the process cre­at­ed in this bill.

Quyen Dinh, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SEARAC, states:

We applaud the lead­er­ship of Reps. Roy­bal-Allard, Velazquez, and Clarke for intro­duc­ing this bill. It is an impor­tant step for immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties and, if passed, would pro­vide more than 9,000 Viet­namese Amer­i­cans with a per­ma­nent path­way to cit­i­zen­ship. Our com­mu­ni­ties are hope­ful that this act will cre­ate a strong foun­da­tion and pave the way for addi­tion­al leg­is­la­tion that lib­er­ates all mem­bers of our com­mu­ni­ties from the fear height­ened deten­tions and depor­ta­tions inflict. And as Con­gress moves this bill for­ward, we must ensure that we do not divide immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties into those deserv­ing and unde­serv­ing of pro­tec­tions by uti­liz­ing only mod­el immi­grant nar­ra­tives. SEARAC will con­tin­ue to work with mem­bers of Con­gress to pass the Amer­i­can Dream and Promise Act and fix our fun­da­men­tal­ly bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem to cre­ate humane immi­gra­tion process­es that pro­tect South­east Asian Amer­i­can fam­i­lies from the trau­ma of deten­tion and depor­ta­tion and reunite our fam­i­lies in the Unit­ed States.”

Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT, states:

We wel­come the intro­duc­tion of the Amer­i­can Dream and Promise Act, sets out to pro­vide a long await­ed path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for over two mil­lion indi­vid­u­als, includ­ing those with DACA, TPS, and DED. The South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in the Unit­ed States alone has over 23,000 Dream­ers and 15,000 Nepali Amer­i­cans with TPS who will direct­ly ben­e­fit from this leg­is­la­tion. While Con­gress embarks on this impor­tant step, we will con­tin­ue to fol­low the lead­er­ship of DACA, TPS, and DED hold­ers, who advo­cate for poli­cies that would uplift all — rather than leg­is­la­tion that would ben­e­fit one immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty at the expense of anoth­er. We must not allow any com­pro­mis­es that would under­mine this hard work and deliv­er this bill’s pro­tec­tions for the price of increased enforce­ment and oth­er harm­ful and unnec­es­sary addi­tions. We look for­ward to build­ing on this leg­is­la­tion to improve our entire­ly bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem to ensure that all immi­grant fam­i­lies are pro­tect­ed from deten­tion, depor­ta­tion, and denat­u­ral­iza­tion.

Birdie Park, DACA Recip­i­ent with NAKASEC, states:

We are excit­ed about for­ward motion in Con­gress for immi­grant youth, TPS hold­ers, and those with DED. We call upon our mem­bers of Con­gress to be coura­geous and not nego­ti­ate any­thing harm­ful for our com­mu­ni­ties onto this bill.”