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

###

 

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.

Remembering Oak Creek and all Survivors of Hate Violence

August 5, 2019 

On this day exact­ly sev­en years ago, a known white suprema­cist opened fire with a 9 mil­lime­ter semi­au­to­mat­ic hand­gun in the Oak Creek, WI gur­d­wara, and killed six peo­ple. We are still mourn­ing the dev­as­tat­ing impact of this vio­lence today. Just this week­end, white male shoot­ers claimed 31 lives in El Paso, TX and Day­ton, OH. The El Paso shoot­er pub­lished an online man­i­festo inspired by the mass mur­der of Mus­lims in Christchurch, New Zealand and echo­ing the Trump Administration’s dai­ly onslaught of racist rhetoric and pol­i­cy.    

There were 2,009 hate crimes in 30 of the coun­try’s largest cities in 2018 — the high­est num­ber in the past decade. Last year marked the 5th con­sec­u­tive increase in hate crimes, the steep­est rise since 2015, accord­ing to police data ana­lyzed by the Cen­ter for the Study of Hate & Extrem­ism at Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, San Bernardi­no.

State­ments and repeat­ed con­dem­na­tions are not enough.  White suprema­cist vio­lence is killing peo­ple of col­or and immi­grants. Any elect­ed offi­cial refus­ing to acknowl­edge this prob­lem and con­sid­er leg­is­la­tion that con­fronts this vio­lence is com­plic­it. We demand our elect­ed offi­cials and law enforce­ment agen­cies track the threat of orga­nized white suprema­cy as a sys­temic issue and that they address the root caus­es of hate vio­lence. We refuse to view these as iso­lat­ed inci­dents and will con­tin­ue work­ing to dis­man­tle all sys­tems that per­pet­u­ate this vio­lence, fueled by the ille­git­i­mate white suprema­cist claim to our nation’s stolen land.

We send love to our Sikh fam­i­ly and all sur­vivors of hate on this extreme­ly dif­fi­cult day and for­ti­fy our com­mit­ment to “Char­di Kala” as we fight for jus­tice.

Here’s what you can do today to sup­port sur­vivors of hate: 

*Donate to help sur­vivors and fam­i­lies of vic­tims. The El Paso Com­mu­ni­ty Foun­da­tion is accept­ing dona­tions here.

*Offer sup­port local­ly in El Paso here.

*Con­nect with orga­ni­za­tions like Hope Bor­der Insti­tute (@HopeBorder) and NM Comu­nidades en Acción y de Fé (@OrganizeNM) who are offer­ing resources and orga­niz­ing vig­ils for sur­vivors who can­not seek med­ical treat­ment due to fear of being tar­get­ed by immi­gra­tion author­i­ties. 

* Write a let­ter to the edi­tor or essay in your local news­pa­per about ongo­ing hate vio­lence and how it affects us all

* Send a mes­sage of sup­port to the Oak Creek Gur­d­wara

* Con­tact your pub­lic offi­cial and ask them to sup­port the Khalid Jabara & Heather Hey­er NO HATE ACT

#ElPa­soStrong #Remem­berOakCreek

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

 

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

###

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