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Migrants Are Being Detained Indefinitely By The Trump Administration. Here’s How They’re Getting The Word Out

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Detained undocumented people don’t have much of a say about their treatment under custody by the U.S. government. We are not talking about felons, murderers, rapists, or hard criminals; we’re talking about detained undocumented migrants seeking asylum. So what is left for them to do? How else can they get people’s attention about their situation? They’re taking desperate measures.

More undocumented detainees are going on hunger strikes to protest bail policies and unfair treatment in detention centers.

According to NPR, there have been six hunger strikes at detention centers this year and immigration advocates say it’s due to the changing policy. The Trump administration has changed the policy to allow holding detainees without bail.

Since last year, President Trump has been saying that detainees won’t be released and await trial. Bail has long been the standard policy called due process under the law. Instead, the Trump administration wants to hold migrants until their cases are settled.

“We’re going to catch, we’re not going to release,” he said during a news conference in November. “They’re going to stay with us until the deportation hearing or the asylum hearing takes place…And they await a lengthy court process. The court process will take years sometimes for them to attend. Well, we’re not releasing them into our country any longer. They’ll wait.”

Attorney General William Barr went further and said that in 90 days they will implement a new no bail policy, which will cause overcrowding at centers and also more hunger strikes. The American Civil Liberties Union is already planning on using the Administration.

Last week, 150 detainees went on a hunger strike in Louisiana.

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The Associated Press reports that detainees protested poor conditions and medical care in the detention center, others said they were frustrated that they were denied bond.

Officials there said only 24 detainees went on a hunger strike, but immigrant advocates say the number was actually 150.

“We have never seen so many hunger strikes in so many different places in less than three, four months,” Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigrants rights activist told NPR. “And the ones we have been able to engage with have been led by asylum-seekers.”

We shall see how many more detainees choose this route in the coming months.

READ: This Detention Center has Driven its Women to Go on a Hunger Strike

The Homestead Detention Center Just Transferred Out All Migrants Kids But May Welcome New Ones As Soon As October

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The Homestead Detention Center Just Transferred Out All Migrants Kids But May Welcome New Ones As Soon As October

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You’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe the Trump administration was reconsidering the way it was treating migrant children who are crossing the boarder. Especially since earlier this month, we’d reported that the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in Miami, Florida, was to close. However, it looks like Homestead is set to reopen again – as soon as this October.

Well, that didn’t last long.

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The beginning of the month saw the last of the children, who were detained at the facility, removed. While it’s difficult to say exactly how many children were originally housed at the detention center due to the overcrowding that’s taken place across holding facilities nationwide, it’s thought that there were between 2700 to 3000 children staying at Homestead. Part of the reason why Caliburn International, the company that runs Homestead, was instructed to reduce its detainees in the first place was due to government compliance issues. That is, the government had introduced new standards in preparation for hurricane season.

We still don’t know where the previous group of children went after leaving Homestead.

Pinterest / Chance Vintage

Even though the children were removed, it’s not clear what happened to the children once they’d left Homestead. The fact Caliburn International is a for-profit company and still required staff to show up for work, despite there being no detainees, has also clouded the issue. At the time of writing, reports say that while 1,700 employees had been dismissed due to the center officially closing, more than 2,500 kept their jobs. It’s not clear what they’re doing at Homestead while they await new inmates.

And because Homestead is an influx center, it doesn’t require a state license. 

Twitter / @marwilliamson

Typically speaking, influx centers are essentially designed to house a large number of inmates, in case the government suddenly finds itself inundated by asylum seekers. These centers are only intended for short stays, which is why they can legally hold a larger number of detainees. Otherwise, Homestead’s population would be capped at 500 children. And while we’re on the subject of numbers – temporary facilities like Homestead are actually more expensive, in the long run. They cost the government around $775 a day per child, while permanent shelters run at about $250 per day per child. Nice to know everyone’s tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Is this all starting to should kinda familiar to you? Yea, us too.

Pinterest / PolitcusUSA

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, it should. The US government recently argued in federal court that it shouldn’t have to provide things like toothbrushes and soap to detainees, since they were only being temporarily housed in the facility in Clint, Texas. Spoiler alert: the judges didn’t buy that argument, since inmates are being held for months at a time at these facilities. Again, these places that don’t provide basic necessities for inmates are more expensive to run than a more permanent facilities. 

But, we digress.

Pinterest / Chance Vintage

Oddly enough, even though Homestead is set to open again in October, Caliburn’s contract expires November 30. At this stage, it’s unclear whether the company will see the contract renewed, or whether a new contract will be opened up to competitive bidding. Apparently the original contract with Caliburn was awarded without competition, which was done so around the same time John Kelly, Trump’s ex-chief of staff, joined the company’s board of advisers. Bueno.

All of this shows that it’s still business as usual.

Pinterest / V kilpatrick

At the same time, even if the contract for Homestead was open to competitive bidding, it’s unlikely that much would change at the facility for the children who will be staying there. Companies and non-profits that promote asylum seeker’s rights and would likely provide safe and comfortable facilities have little interest in bidding for such contracts, since the very policies motivating them are diametrically opposed to the espoused values of these organizations. 

At the end of the day, this is all semantics. Because while it’s definitely important that we examine the ways that we detain migrants, and ensure that everyone receives due process, we’re not asking the most important question of all: should we even be detaining children for seeking asylum?

Detention Officers In Louisiana Allegedly Attacked Detainees Holding A Hunger Strike Over Conditions

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Detention Officers In Louisiana Allegedly Attacked Detainees Holding A Hunger Strike Over Conditions

Christopher Winton-Stahle / Getty Images

The things that take place behind the doors of detention centers are often a mystery.  Undocumented immigrants disclose some things while immigration officials say another. The media is rarely given a chance to see what the facilities are like, and when they do, they don’t always get the whole picture. That is why advocates of these people are sometimes the only ones that not only get to visit the people inside, but they can also share with the public what is going on. Such is the case with an organization called Freedom for Immigrants who disclosed some incredibly awful events that took place at a detention center. 

This weekend, more than 100 immigrants were attacked inside their detention center while they were protesting with a hunger strike.

 Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom for Immigrants, a non-profit based in California, reports that immigrants detained at the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, were attacked with excessive force by guards because they would not disperse during a hunger strike protest. The detention center is located in a remote area in Louisiana less than two hours west of Baton Rouge.

Freedom for Immigrants said that 115 immigrants had been on a hunger strike for five days, protesting their prolonged detainment.

Credit: @UUSC / Twitter

That is when guards pepper-sprayed them, shot at them with rubber bullets, tear-gassed, beaten, and placed in solitary confinement. They also report that the inmates were blocked from contacting their families or attorneys.

“When an individual in detention goes on hunger strike, it means the person is willing to put their body on the line just to be heard,” Sofia Casini, Southern Regional Coordinator with Freedom for Immigrants, said in a press release. “Multiple hunger strikes happening simultaneously are no coincidence: they are indicative of the desperation and suffering that immigrants are facing inside these human cages.

An ICE spokesperson confirms that the inmates were pepper-sprayed.

Credit: @EMc_42 / Twitter

Bryan Cox, an ICE spokesman, told BuzzFeed that the incident took place saying, a “group of ICE detainees refused to depart the outdoor recreation area at the Pine Prairie facility Friday evening.” He added, “After repeated attempts by facility staff and ICE personnel to disperse the group and restore orderly operation of the facility, brief, calculated use of pepper spray was employed Saturday morning.”

However, he said that no one was injured, which contradicts the images that were released from the incident.

Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom for Immigrants notes that several other hunger strikes are taking place at various detention centers around the country, including at another facility in Louisana. They report that at least 1,396 people have taken part in a hunger strike and 18 detention facilities since May 2015.

The assault against immigrants got so bad that an ambulance had to be called.

Courtesy of Freedom for Immigrants

Mother Jones reports that they can confirm the assault took place as several detainees sent lawyer Lara Nochomovitz text messages. Here’s what some of those messages said: 

“There are lots of cops who came from another prison, they beat up the Cubans, they pepper spray them and handcuff them.”

Another said, “There’s even an ambulance here. Help us please this is ugly!” 

Lt. Bill Davis of the Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office told that publication that the incident was only a small disturbance and said the group consisted of only 30 people. He also added that the person that was taken in an ambulance was suffering from anxiety issues. 

People who are imprisoned use hunger strikes to bring attention to the cruelty taking place inside.

Credit: @Haleaziz / Twitter

In some cases, detainees go long periods of stretches in a hunger strike protest, but officials have been known to force-feed them by using tubes. 

They do this to get the attention of officials and of the media to inform them about the injustices that are going on inside. Sometimes it is their only form of communication since they are unable to speak to family. 

Yanet Diaz is the aunt of Lisvani Perez Serrano who was transferred from Mississippi to Louisiana. She told Freedom for Immigrants that he passed his asylum interview and was granted parole. They informed him that he would be released in 15 days, but that never happened. 

“They haven’t informed him about his case, and he is constantly being threatened. He and the other detained men had no other option but to go on hunger strike.”

The National Immigration Law Center said that it is not surprising that ICE hasn’t officially reported about what took place at the ICE Processing Center in Pine Prairiesince they lack transparency and oversight. They said they are demanding answers and accountability.

READ: Immigration Detainees Joined Prisoners Nationwide To Strike Against Living Conditions And Very Low Wages In Prisons

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